Teamwork, a staple at Healing Horse Ranch. [Photo: Kalenze Kraft]

Located on the outskirts of Parshall, North Dakota, there exists a haven for healing and transformation known as Healing Horse Ranch. In a recent conversation with Supervisor and Event Coordinator of Healing Horse Ranch Jim Baker, he explained that more than a decade ago, this ranch was initially intended to be an inpatient treatment center with an immersive horse therapy program. However, that path was faced with challenges ranging from funding issues, insurance complications to employee-related challenges.

The turning point for Healing Horse Ranch occurred when it partnered with a local treatment center in Parshall. This collaboration allowed individuals to experience the therapeutic benefits of spending time with horses, igniting a spark that would shape the ranch’s destiny. Recognizing the need for year-round facilitation eventually led to the building of an indoor facility, marking a significant milestone in the ranch’s evolution.

Baker shared that the name “Healing Horse” was bestowed upon the ranch by an unnamed individual. Whoever coined the name seemed to have an intuitive understanding of the profound impact the ranch would have on the lives of those who crossed its path.

The youth are a big part of Healing Horse Ranch. [Photo: Kalenze Kraft]

Council Representative for the NE Segment Mervin Packineau recalled, “When we first bought the property, it just kind of sat there with a few buildings, horse corrals, and such. We had an idea to have a place with horses for the troubled youth to come. Looking into it deeper and knowing the aspect of the horse was dying out in Native American culture, we decided to figure out a way to bring back the spirit and healing abilities of the horse to all people.”

Mervin Packineau (left) and Jim Baker (right) all smiles at MHA Rodeo Finals Banquet. [Photo: Kalenze Kraft]

One of the driving forces behind Healing Horse Ranch’s success also has been its growing relationship with Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College. This collaboration has not only expanded the reach of the ranch but has also provided valuable resources and support.

Baker, a man deeply connected to the horses and the mission of the ranch, reflected on the common negative experiences people often associate with horses. He said that many stories he would hear begin with traumatic incidents, like being bucked off or encountering runaway horses. Healing Horse Ranch works with individuals to overcome this by emphasizing guidance and patience in their horse therapy programs.

Rodeo time at Healing Horse Ranch. [Photo: Kalenze Kraft]

Baker said he often shares a humorous yet insightful piece of advice, “Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or an idiot from any direction.” Through laughter and skill, Baker demonstrates the importance of understanding and respecting both animals and humans.

Spirituality is subtly interwoven into the fabric of Healing Horse Ranch. Baker and Packineau both emphasize the value of treating others, including animals, as one would like to be treated. Drawing from their Native American upbringing, they emphasize walking in harmony with everyone – fostering a deep connection between humans and animals that requires a belief in a higher power.

The Mavitys, mother & daughter, pre-gaming it at Healing Horse Ranch. [Photo: Kalenze Kraft]

“I don’t know everything,” Baker humbly admited, “but these horses have taught me so much, and love is the greatest experience in life. The horse will love you back, if you show it.” This philosophy points to the transformative power of transferring positive feelings to the horses, creating a reciprocal bond that enriches the lives of both riders and caregivers.

  Healing Horse Ranch Supervisor and Events Coordinator Jim Baker is always working. [Photo: Kalenze Kraft]

Baker shared anecdotes about the horses at Healing Horse Ranch taking on the emotions of their riders. He said he believes that horses can absorb and reflect the feelings of those around them. This belief has fueled the ranch’s mission to provide a healing space where both humans and horses can find solace and connection.

As the ranch continues to grow, exciting events are on the horizon for Healing Horse Ranch. The recent addition of a bucking machine by Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College has proven to be a huge hit, sparking interest in both female and male bronc riders. The addition of women’s and men’s ranch bronc events at the MHA rodeos further demonstrates the ranch’s commitment to diversity.

In the end, it becomes clear that the name “Healing Horse Ranch” was no accident. Packineau and Baker’s vision, coupled with the unwavering dedication of the ranch’s team, has transformed a simple idea into a thriving sanctuary where healing, connection, and transformation are the guiding principles. The ranch stands as a testament to the power of patience, love, and the profound bond between humans and horses.

Thank you, Healing Horse Ranch.

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