By Collin Breaux
Otra Mas, a nonprofit horse therapy center in San Juan Capistrano, has been around for a decade and celebrated that milestone with supporters and San Juan Capistrano residents Thursday, May 25.
The equine area, which operates out of the Ortega Equestrian Center on Calle Arroyo, held an open house in conjunction with the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce to recognize the milestone. Attendees got to tour the center grounds and visit with horses.
A ribbon cutting was also held to commemorate the 10th anniversary.
“Ten years ago, Kathy Holman and her late husband, John Holman, saw there was this huge need that would take in retired horses that could no longer be ridden and give them a forever home and new purpose in life,” Otra Mas Executive Director Belinda Kiesecker said of the purpose and history behind the therapy center.
“The most common outcome for horses that cannot be ridden anymore is they are euthanized. They could be, otherwise, be happy, healthy horses that just have an injury,” Kiesecker continued.
In its 10-year time span, Otra Mas has gone from working with clients six days a month to six days a week, Kiesecker said.
Equine therapy service clients include military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. One particular client, a combat nurse who served multiple tours in Afghanistan, turned to Otra Mas because she wanted to work on trust and confidence, Kiesecker said.
“I pulled the horse out, tied the horse up. We sat down, did this deep meditation where we just got completely relaxed, grounded, and present in the moment,” Kiesecker said.
The client then ran her hands along the horse with her eyes closed, allowing her to learn how to get in a comfortable space.
“She called me after Thanksgiving and said she did that exercise while she was at Thanksgiving with her family because that big crowd and event overwhelmed her,” Kiesecker said.
The horse activities can be used so people can find peace and happiness, she said.
Other Otra Mas programs are available to help teenagers and team-building capabilities. Volunteer opportunities are also available.
“Horses will reveal and react to your inner emotional state, inner mental state, inner physical state, and then give you that information back in a way that no other activity does,” Kiesecker said.
“Horses have a unique ability to help people see themselves and how they relate to the world around them and how they relate to other people without having to think or talk about it like a traditional therapy session,” Kiesecker continued.