Sexual Abuse and The Story of DJ is part of a series of videos. Visit our DJ VIDEO PAGE for more in this series.
Sexually abused boys come to Oxbow Academy to heal. The story of DJ, our rescued horse, closely parallels the recovery and healing process that many of our boys experience as they progress through treatment at Oxbow. With equine therapy, your son can heal from his sexual issues.
When Brita led the horse out of the trailer, I was astounded. I had never seen such a weak, mangy looking animal in my life. I couldn’t believe the horse was able to stand on his own. His ribs stuck out and his coat was in patches. There were scars all over his body.
“He actually looks better today,” Brita said. “We’ve spent the weekend giving him hay and grass and his belly’s a little rounder.” I wondered how a horse could possibly look worse.
Brita and Tony North are the equine directors at Oxbow Academy. The Norths answered an ad for a horse that “needed a little work.” What they found was a horse that was practically starving. Born in a freezing Utah December, the horse was orphaned at four months. Since then, it had been abused and neglected, pushed away from food and water by the other horses in the herd. Brita worried that if they agreed to take the animal that it would die during the three-hour drive back to Oxbow. Tony was skeptical that the poor horse could be rehabilitated. By the time the three of them arrived back at Oxbow, the Norths had come up with a plan.
In the treatment team meeting, Brita told her colleagues about the animal’s history and noted, “He’s got a lot in common with some of our boys. What if we gave them a chance to help him recover?”
Oxbow therapists were immediately on board. Both had students they felt could benefit from the rehabilitation project.
And so, on a sunny summer morning, the wobbly, weak horse moved slowly toward the Oxbow corral. Brita was slow and gentle, moving with great deliberateness because, as she said, “I really don’t know what to expect from him. Everything is new to him.”
A few minutes later, Gregg and Todd, along with students David and James, arrived. Todd told the boys about the horse on the drive over, but I think that they were all still surprised at how bad the horse looked anyway. They began by carefully brushing the horse. He’d never seen or felt a brush. His hide was raw in some places, scarred in others, and somewhat normal looking in other areas. There were some spots he simply would not allow anyone to touch.
Brita tried coaxing him to take a few bites from a bucket filled with a special mix of vitamin-enriched grain since he needed the extra nutrition to begin to heal, but the grain held no appeal for him. He didn’t know what it was. Instead, he eyed the weeds that were around the corral. It’s all he’d ever known.
David and James, both adopted, decided that the horse needed a name. What was his old name? It didn’t matter, they decided, and they gave him the new name “DJ” in honor of both of them. He looks pretty bad, Todd noted. That doesn’t matter either, they said. He’s their horse now. They loved him. Todd and Gregg gradually turned the conversation to talk about the boys’ own abuse and about scars and healing. They talked about their adoptions and how much their adoptive mothers loved them. They talked about reaching out and taking the help that was being offered to them – the bucket of grain in their own lives.
More than an hour later, the boys were headed back to the dorms with plans of what they’d need to do next to help DJ gain strength. I headed to my car wondering how a beat-up horse could have had that much effect on two teenage boys.