Anti-drug coalition uses horse therapy for rehabilitation of youth


In the ongoing battle to fight drug abuse, one group in Roane County is pulling out all the stops: Working, networking, using social media and special programs like a therapeutic horseback riding course to make a difference – helping all age groups, but focusing on kids.

Behind it all is the Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition.

There’s nothing like the feel of dirt beneath your feet, a horse at your side, under the bright lights of an arena fit for the finest rodeo.

In this case, it’s the Expo Center at Roane State Community College, part of Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition’s partnership with the nonprofit group “Life Reins,” offering horsemanship lessons to young people: Teens who are in the juvenile justice system.

They’re kids like “Laura.” We can’t share her real name or show her face, but she was willing to share her story.

“My parents divorced September 2018, we moved out, I hit a really rough patch, I didn’t want to go to school at all, I wouldn’t come home because my mom and I were fighting all the time because I felt like it was her fault,” she told us.

Life Reins instructor Janicia West explains, “working with the horses, you have to kinda get in touch with things deep within that might be getting in the way of, say, things you’re experiencing in your life. And so through working with horses, what you get is an opportunity to learn those communication skills that kind of bump up against your own inner troubles as you partner with this horse and get this horse to do things you want it to do.”

It’s all part of the coalition’s effort to get the community involved in helping troubled young people turn their lives around.

Behind the new partnerships is an energetic team: Nathan Wray and Ashley Freeberg.

Both are prevention coordinators with the anti-drug coalition.

They not only set up programs like the horseback riding classes with Life Reins, they are there to see the program in action.

You’ll also find them on social media going live for the cause.

Wray and Freeberg tell us, “we’re not just hanging out with kids. We’re doing something that’s effective with them and teaching them different strategies to use and I think we use it really well, and we show the community how we can partner with them. We can partner with all aspects of the community, whether it’s faith-based, a certain business, or like Roane State.”

Probation officer Denard Bertram says it takes people working together to make a difference in helping a child.

“The one thing people need to know about juveniles is -we always say it’s not a punitive court so anytime someone from the community can give their time and attention to our children, that’s mainly what they need.”

For “Laura” it seems to be working.

“I feel like I am doing better,” she said.

For more information on the Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition:

  • 865-224-0205

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