St. Augusta stable rescues horses, helps humans through their struggles
By Bill Vossler
Katherine Zachman has loved horses since her birth. “I’m one of those horse girls,” she said. “I was born with the gene.”
A few years ago, she decided to share that love with others, but in a most surprising way: by uniting hurting veterans and victims of human trafficking with troubled horses, to help all of them heal.
In 2018 she started Angel Reins Stable, located on 40 acres in rural St. Augusta.
“The idea was placed in my heart by the creator roughly seven years ago. I didn’t get horses to do therapy, but because I loved them. Angel Reins Stable is a place of horses and healing. In addition to providing a loving home for rescue horses, our programs serve, at no cost, veterans, survivors of human trafficking, and others suffering from PTSD, depression, anxiety, grief, and more.”
But Angel Reins Stable does more than help suffering human beings -- it also helps horses that have been put into kill pens; holding facilities for horses to be slaughtered.
“Slaughtering horses for food is illegal in the U.S., but a market exists beyond our borders, in Europe, Japan and Russia. It‘s an ugly side of the horse industry that people don‘t talk about. You have to be very careful when you‘re selling a horse to be sure to know where the horse is going, so it doesn‘t end up in a kill lot. Perfectly wonderful horses end up there.”
One that Katherine saved is Hope, who came from kill pen in Texas.
“When I saw a picture of her, I knew instantly that I was going down to Texas to get this horse. I called a couple of friends to pray for me. I don’t look for horses, but they seem to find me. I never know exactly why I’m getting a particular horse, but this one’s eyes really spoke to me.”
After 46 hours and 2200 miles, Katherine and her dear friend, Kari Kotzer, found the horse, and brought back “the pretty little one white-legged horse, we now call Hope.” After a quarantine and vet work, she was healthy and introduced into the herd.
“Hope herself suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and anxiety,” Katherine said. At a trainer’s Hope became extremely anxious, so she was brought back home where she is more comfortable and could learn more easily.
She has bonded solidly with “B,” a survivor of human trafficking, and Mike, who was in the penitentiary for 15 years.
“’B’ loves horses, and was absolutely ecstatic with Hope. Hope is what gave her hope.”
“’B’ said she felt broken and hopeless when she first heard about Angel Reins and the horses, and was in a residential safe house for survivors of human trafficking. “I have been dealing with lifelong psychosis and depression, and it wasn’t until I was given the chance to go to Angel Reins’ therapy program that I was able to heal and see myself empowered as a survivor of human trafficking.”
She added that people are not the only ones who develop mental illnesses in the face of trauma, abuse, or neglect. “In Hope I met a horse who was dealing with many of the same issues I was going through. Every session made us best buddies. So we leaned on each other for support, and every time I visit Angel Reins we reunite and remind each other of our healing, our strength, and our journey.”
People can see the love and trust that has developed between Mike and Hope since he was released from prison. Katherine said, “He rides her bareback without anything but a halter, a lead rope fashioned as reins and often carries an American flag.”
Mike wrote a letter to Hope, saying, “I feel like I have a lot of love inside me, but I don’t know how to show it or give it or receive it. I like people, but I mostly don’t feel comfortable being around them. When I met you, though, I felt instantly like you understood this too… that maybe you are a soul who trusted too much, too often, and maybe gave all of yourself only to be hurt and abused. At least we have this moment together, to just live and love.”
He visits Hope weekly. “Together they ride like the wind,” Katherine said, “and together they heal.”
Another rescued horse is Cowboy who came from a kill lot in Bastrop, Louisiana. “This beautiful buckskin has captured the hearts of many,” Katherine said. She has dubbed Cowboy “America’s horse,” because of how many people have a special feeling for him.
“Horses know what’s inside you,” she said. “You can’t fool horses. No use even trying. Horses change people’s lives. Their innate ability to touch one’s wounded soul and hurting heart is unlike any other therapy out there. They can reach people that other therapies can’t.”
Former clients never forget the horses, Katherine said, as almost every week they hear from past guests and clients wanting to visit their horse or ask how their horse is doing.
Since horse behaviors and human behaviors mirror each other in society and horse life, people can learn confidence, leadership, teamwork, boundaries, verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and much more, Katherine said.
Angel Reins Stable
Angel Reins is home to 13 horses, three dogs, and nine cats, who all get along.
“The first rescue horse was Sunny. He joined the herd 15 years ago, rail thin and blind in one eye. Healthy, shiny and happy, this 30-year-old Palomino rules the roost. Since then nine more have been rescued, including Cody, a 30-year-old retired kids’ camp trail horse, “who is worth his weight in gold, and is now a treasured part of the family.”
One survivor wrote that Angel Reins Stable has been a huge blessing for their family. Their daughter‘s therapist had suggested another therapy outlet for the girl.
“Once I was in touch with Kathy, I knew it was a Godsend. With a month of riding with Cody, (our daughter’s) therapist told us she was doing so well that we should take a step back with her regular therapy, and spend more time with Cody.” Their daughter frequently tells them that Cody makes her happy.”
More than 200 hurting people have been served already this year, as Angel Reins works with veterans from Eagle’s Healing Nest from Sauk Centre, women who have been sexually exploited or trafficked from Terebinth Refuge of Waite Park, and women and children of the Starfish program. Most people show up twice a month, depending on Covid, and some by appointment. Others also are helped.
Angel Reins is working hard to purchase the 10 acres abutting the stable to build an indoor arena with for four to six more horse stalls, and an office. This will allow for year round interaction with the horses, as well as a place for counselors and a place for meeting. With its 501c3 status, funding is now made much easier.
“I am so grateful for my Board of Directors and their dedication and steadfast commitment and love for the mission at Angel Reins,” Katherine says. “There’s no stopping it because it’s God’s plan.”