TRAK is a specialized ranch that helps connect people with animals and their community.  They are located in Tucson Arizona and have been operating for 15 years.  Jill and Scott, the founders of TRAK shared their inspiration for starting TRAK.  Gerald also was able to talk to a few employees as well as a few parents of kids who have benefited from TRAK’s unique program.

TRAK

Inspiration for a new program 

TRAK is short for Therapeutic Ranch for Animals and Kids.  The co-founder Jill shared her inspiration in starting the program.  She said there were a few things she saw while working as a teacher with adolescents who were in and out of the judicial system. 

The first thing she noticed was that the children she worked with always had a connection with the animals she had in her classroom.  The other thing she noticed was the low self-esteem or self-worth her students had. 

Her students needed to do community service.  Jill then had the idea to put community service together with animals to help build their self esteem

Getting the program started

Scott, the co-founder of TRAK, is Jill’s husband.  He was fortunate to live in a ranch where he learned to take care of the animals from his neighbor. Scott shared the purpose of TRAK is, to “bring families back together.” 

Get them off of their phones and interact with each other and the animals.  He also shared the unique opportunity TRAK has, is to help connect those with disabilities to their community.  When people with disabilities work alongside those who don’t have disabilities, those without disabilities are able to see that they have value and can build compassion for them.

Open program

TRAK is different from most animal therapy centers.  They offer participants to interact with the animal they connect to.  TRAK has bunnies, pigs, chickens, goats, dogs and horses. They allow participants to work at their own pace. Kristin, the mom of a TRAK participant, shared her experience.

When Jackson, Kirstins son, first started TRAK he was terrified of the dogs.  TRAK would put the dogs away and allow Jackson to be comfortable.  Now, Jackson loves the dogs and wants to interact with them and all of the animals. 

Worth the drive

Kristin lives in southern California.  Every two months she makes the eight hour journey to TRAK with her son.  Saying that the program has helped her son flourish in all aspects of his life.  The skills he is learning while taking care of the animals, he has been able to transfer those skills into skills he can use to become more independent.  Such as self grooming, language skills, and overall being more willing to learn new skills at home.

She attributes TRAK’s open program to Jackson’s success.  There is no check-list at TRAK, they accept you and love you for who you are.  This is something that Kristin says has set Jackson up for success, not failure.

Porter, a TRAK employee, talked about the work he does for TRAK. He first started there as a TRAK participant as a young child.  Now he is 19 years old and works as a horse trainer and ferrier.  He said that his job as a trainer is to get the horses to trust him.

TRAK provided the opportunity for Porter to go to a ferrier program to learn how to properly take care of the horses hooves.  

Mental health help

Chelsea, the program director, shared that as a young child, she struggled with anxiety and depression.  Her horse is what she says saved her life.  She shared what makes animals so therapeutic and helpful to those with mental health issues.  

They have a calming energy, they meet you where you are at, they can sense what you are feeling all through non-verbal communication.  Animals are emotional creatures and have the ability to connect with humans emotionally. 

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