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Spouse volunteers at equine facility

Bridging the gap between horse, patient

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Many words could be used to describe Army spouse Kelli McMorris. Patriotic, caring, funny, kind and humble are words that first come to mind. Those who know her also know her love for her hobbies, namely tending to her lavish garden and her passion for animals. It is of no surprise, then, that since being stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in 2009, McMorris has been volunteering at Changing Rein, an equine-facilitated treatment facility located in Graham. 

Having been through numerous deployments, McMorris knows that the key to making it through is to keep busy and have a rock-solid support network. So during her husband's deployment in 2009, she wanted to meet spouses and signed up to be a part of the spouses' club. In a coincidental twist of fate, at the introductory meeting, she sat next to a fellow Army wife who volunteered at Changing Rein.  

The facility specializes in providing therapy using horses as a tool -as a conduit between patient and therapist. It also uses horses for those with disabilities, ranging from autism to Down's syndrome, and has served veterans with traumatic brain injury.

Changing Rein also provides the opportunity for at-risk youth to learn life skills through equine-facilitated learning. They do this in various ways, from using horses in learning group dynamics to grooming, recognizing boundaries, and the importance of communication.

It is no secret that animals have a sense of what their handlers are feeling - a dog that comforts a crying owner, or a cat that clings to a pregnant woman's side, for instance.  The horses at Changing Rein are no different.

"I have come in after a rough day and the horses know," McMorris said. "This has happened more times than I can count."

Over the years, spending time at Changing Rein has even become a family affair, as her husband and children have also volunteered in one way or another. Her daughter, Taylor, not only helps clear the trails and clean the stables, but also has gotten kids from her school involved.

For more information about therapy, volunteering or general questions, visit call (253) 318-3855.

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