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How Newton Came to The Refuge Ranch

Here’s how a special horse named Newton came to live at The Refuge Ranch.

How a Special Horse Named Newton Came to The Refuge Ranch

Meet Cecily Kertson, the smiling woman wearing plaid in these photographs. (The other women in the photos are models who were hired for a future video to help dramatize our equine program.) Cecily and her family recently gave a substantial gift to The Refuge Ranch that will have big impact upon the therapeutic care we provide for child survivors of sex trafficking.

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This gift was Newton, a sweet and noble English show horse who adores children and loves to pose for photographs. Cecily’s daughter was “horse-crazy” before she could even walk. When Newton came into her life, he was perfect for her. He lovingly taught her how to ride and jump, plus he helped teach her love and responsibility.

As her daughter grew in her teen years, she began working with a larger horse and she didn’t ride Newton as often. After she got her driver’s license there was a car that she absolutely had to have. Noah, her father, explained to her that he would love to help her get her dream car but she had horses that needed care and feeding. So she had to make a choice -- keep the horses or get the car. She thought about it for a bit, then she put on her cowgirl boots and got a job, where she earned the money to buy the car AND keep her horses. So Newton kept teaching her valuable life lessons even when there was a shiny new vehicle with a lot more horsepower to consider.

Cecily first heard about The Refuge Ranch and our Equine Therapy program through a child sex trafficking awareness event hosted three years ago by Austin Oral Surgery. For the next three years while the ranch was being built, she held onto Newton because she knew The Refuge could benefit from such a magnificent soul. (Austin Oral Surgery meanwhile, held many more awareness events and Cecily was a volunteer at most of them, where they taught Austin's dental community how to recognize if a patient in their chairs may be under the control of a trafficker.)

As the concrete slabs out at The Refuge Ranch were being poured and the walls were being painted, The Refuge staff did a lot of research on various equine programs and interviewed more than a few equine therapists before choosing to partner with Colors of Hope. Their Equine Restoration Certification program was created with a strategic “layering” process to help sex trafficking survivors heal. With the help of a good horse like Newton, our Equine Program Coordinator, and our in-house licensed therapist, this program helps establish self-respect, self-love, boundaries, and trust -- which makes it a perfect fit within The Refuge Circle of Care™. Other psychological services at the ranch include one-on-one therapy sessions specializing in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, sand tray therapy, experiential therapy, and group therapy with other survivors. See all the other components of The Refuge Circle of Care here.

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Last fall, The Refuge’s Equine Program Coordinator came to “audition” Newton and she, of course, fell in love with him. She wanted to come pick him up the next week, but Cecily held out just a little bit longer to hand over his reigns. She waited one more week so we could come by and capture some video and still photos with models recreating a typical equine therapy session. We are happy to report that he does like to pose for the camera and he’s quite the ham. He even remained calm when a drone camera buzzed in close like the world’s biggest dragonfly. Thanks to Newton and Cecily, the video we shot will help us raise the funding needed to complete the Equine Therapy Center construction. See Corgan Architect’s newest renderings and learn more.

Now Newton has joined Scrappy, Lucy, Maverick, and Zeus at The Refuge Ranch, and we are so thankful that Cecily and her family were so patient with us. In this last candid photograph taken with an iPhone, it’s hard to make out, but if you look closely you can see a videographer, a photographer, three models and Newton, all in the right two-thirds of the frame. On the far left is Cecily and her husband Noah, hugging each other tight as they said goodbye to Newton. You can't see the happy tears, but it's reported that there were more than a few.


We want to thank the Kertson family, and all our other donors and volunteers, who have been so patient with us while we build a lasting, loving refuge for child sex trafficking survivors.

If you too have been patiently waiting to help, please click this link to find out about our new Equine Therapy Center.