Oklahoma therapeutic riding ranch rebuilds after devastating wildfires

It does not matter if it is a devasting tornado, wildfire, flood or a financial catastrophe; Oklahomans always rebuild, restore and resume. After wildfires ravaged northwest Oklahoma in November 2019, White Horse Ranch, located near Mooreland, Oklahoma, was forced to evacuate, along with many other residents of the area.

White Horse Ranch is a residential treatment program for adolescent females, ages 12 to 18 years old. The girls in the program participate in equine therapy by adopting horses at the ranch and overcoming all kinds of trauma, mental health issues and substance abuse by caring for and riding the horses.

When the smoke cleared, many buildings at the ranch were destroyed; however, the facilities have been rebuilt and the ranch is back in business in its original location.

“I’m very pleased that our White Horse Ranch program is back into our Oklahoma facility following the wildfires we experienced last November,” said Tammie Smith, owner at White Horse Ranch. “When difficulties or obstacles arise in the path you know you are meant to be on, it helps to have a steady resolve and true Oklahoma resilient spirit. White Horse has committed staff members who care about the best interest and healing of the girls with which we work.”

Emily Lammie, development and marketing coordinator at White Horse Ranch, says thanks to a supportive community, the ranch was able to continue offering therapy to girls attending the program while the facilities were being reconstructed.

“We couldn’t be at our original location, but we found a temporary house in Woodward, Oklahoma, and all the girls stayed, we just had to be really creative and make it work,” she explained. “The community was phenomenal. They helped us with dinners, lunches and getting cots to sleep on.”

White Horse Ranch consists of 22 horses and the facilities allow for 16 girls to participate in the program at a time. Two horses were injured during the wildfires and one had to be taken to the Oklahoma State University Veterinary Medical Hospital in Stillwater, Oklahoma, to undergo treatment. Lammie says the horse, Allowance, stayed at the hospital for six weeks, but has since been released and has recovered.

Several buildings were destroyed in the fire, including one barn, an administrative offices trailer, a laundry room, kitchen and one of the group rooms sustained fire damage. In the process of putting the fire out, water soaked into many of the buildings as well, which added more repairs to the list.

Lammie says White Horse Ranch is extremely appreciative to everyone who stepped up and helped the program in their time of need, from generous donations, support from the media and especially the fire department that responded promptly.

“We’re so grateful for the Mooreland Volunteer Fire Department because they got there and put the fire out,” Lammie said. “We would have lost our entire building if they hadn’t been there to help us.”

Smith echoed Lammie with her praise of the fire departments that protected people, animals and property during the fires.

“We are humbled and grateful for the Mooreland volunteer firefighters who actually risked their lives to save our buildings,” Smith said.

For the girls involved with White Horse Ranch, the wildfires became another challenge they had to face and overcome, and Lammie sees it as a learning experience they can grow from.

“We’ve tried to be really positive and honest with the girls,” she said. “We know this was a traumatic experience and many of the girls come from traumatic backgrounds, so we have just tried to show them that you can overcome. They’ve been able to help us move back to the ranch and experience that comradery and partnership with all of our staff. We like to says we’re White Horse strong, but we’re also Oklahoma strong and we look for the blessings and the positives.”

Lacey Newlin can be reached at 580-748-1892 or [email protected].