Warhorse Ranch makes impact with first retreat
“Fantastic,” is how Marine Corps veteran Brittany Kohler described her feelings in a Facebook post following the “Freedom Retreat” at the Warhorse Ranch last week.
“I’m back from the retreat and feel fantastic,” Kohler wrote in the post. “This past week was everything I hoped for and more. I didn’t think such a short amount of time of self-healing could make such a difference in my mindset, attitude and overall outlook.”
Those are the words Mike and Valery Lozano have been waiting to hear since establishing Warhorse Ranch less than 20 miles north of Steamboat Springs on Routt County Road 56 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in March of 2020. The retreat was a first for the ranch.
“It went very well,” said Mike Lozano. “You could feel the power, and see it just by looking at the pictures.”
The retreat consisted of five days of mindful activities, including equine assisted therapy, a guided fly fishing experience, and horseback riding. Four local veterans took part and were provided lodging at Steamboat Lake Outpost.
The staff included a clinical mental health specialist, a nurse practitioner specializing in trauma, a registered dietician also specializing in trauma, a physical therapist specializing in equine assisted therapy, and amazing volunteers.
The retreat began on June 22, as the participants met the horses and the staff they would be working with for the week. The next day, June 23, the participants went on a fly fishing adventure hosted by Trout Unlimited at Hahns Peak Lake.
“It was a real mindful, guided fly fishing experience,” Mike Lozano said. “Two of the veterans had never fly fished before … they really enjoyed it and it was very peaceful and it was a good experience for them.”
On Friday, June 24, participants took part in all-day therapy sessions in which veterans teamed up with equine specialist and a mental health professional for individual and group sessions. Kohler said at one point she was having an emotional conversation with a therapist when she was introduced to just how intuitive horses can be.
“At one point started to break down as I was getting into a real topic,” Kohler said. “I looked behind me and there was one horse on one shoulder, and another horse peeking over the other shoulder and they felt my emotions, my energy, and where I was mentally. They thought, ‘Hey she needs me right now.’”
Kohler was on active duty with the Marine Corps for four years from 2007 until 2011, and continued to do government contract work for seven years. She said a lot of the trauma she faced came after she left the military, and was working on fitting back into civilian life.
“Apparently that’s pretty common. You have that mentality that you’re fine until it goes on for years, and years,” Kohler said. “You’re trained to perform under stressful situations, you’re trained to be elite and it’s hard to admit when that mentality starts to fall … it’s hard to ask for help.”
Getting those suffering with trauma is why the Lozano’s started the Warhorse Ranch, and these are the issues the two, who are both veterans themselves, are working to address.
“We don’t want to go too much, too big, because we want to be able to provide that individuality to each person,” Valery Lozano said. “We want them to have the space to work through their own issues, and not feel like they’re being passed over, or not given enough time. So I like the intimacy of the small group, and think it works really well.”
The first retreat spanned five days from June 22- 26 and included the fishing trip, a hike to Fish Creek Falls and a night at the rodeo. The group also spent four hours at Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch with local legend Ray Heid and were set up with lodging and meals at Steamboat Lake Outpost.
The Lozano’s said the event was made possible by money raised from generous donors and grants which allow the Warhorse Ranch to provide these healing retreats. The Lozano’s are already looking forward to the next retreat from September 28 to October 2, which will be open to anyone suffering from any trauma.
Warhorse Ranch also offers individual equine therapy sessions. For more information call 970-879-9121 or go to warhorseranch.org.
“Sometimes it’s hard for me with the hustle and bustle of this town to slow down,” Kohler said. “Part of it was just kind of taking a break, and having the free time you forget how important that is. But with the horses there’s just some kind of magical connection … and it was great.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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