- If you’d asked Vanessa or Brianna anything about horses before they arrived in Descanso at Phoenix Academy San Diego, they’d have likely given you a blank stare, at best. Now, though, if you ask them, you’d better have some time. Because once you get them on the subject of “their” horses, they won’t stop until they have to.
“Mine is so sweet,” Brianna started.
“Mine is the bad one,” Vanessa cuts in, with a smile. “The first time we went there, he stepped on my foot. And we didn’t have boots then. It hurt!”
The next time they went, though, she asked for him again. She liked his spirit, plus the kids had boots by then, thanks mainly to the late John Davies, who included the equine program among his many generous gifts to Phoenix House. The program is called “Horses Heal Hearts” — and it turns out that maybe they do, those horses. The girls spoke of how just being around the horses helped them deal with their own lives: their anger, their fear, their isolation. As Director Elizabeth Urquhart wrote, “The Phoenix Riders has been developed to provide recreational and transformational equine-facilitated education.” Brianna and Vanessa might not know what that means, but they know how it works and what it feels like.
“And then mine tried to run away with me,” Brianna was saying.
“And mine got scared by something and shied away,” Vanessa cut in again, “and I almost fell off.”
“Me, too,” said Brianna with a smile. Two smiles.
“We love them,” she added, and Vanessa agreed.