Claire Anderson, contributing writer 



For as long as she could remember, Samantha Draney wanted horses. First, she decided she would be a doctor when she grew up so she could afford them. Then, when she was a senior in high school, she realized something, “I [didn’t] have to be a doctor to have horses; I could just make horses my career,” she said.

When she decided to pursue a degree in equine management, Samantha attended Asbury University in Kentucky and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2015. She was also given the opportunity to participate in an internship at a residential treatment center specializing in equine therapy.

“During my internship, I fell in love with equine therapy and recognized how beneficial it is,” Samantha said.

When she took the job as an equine manager at the residential treatment center she had interned at and was given the opportunity to get certified as an equine specialist through multiple therapy organizations, Samantha knew this was what she wanted to be doing.

Samantha was working full-time at the residential treatment center in Logan when she found out that what is now TriStar Ranch was for sale in Lewiston. She knew the property would be perfect for equine therapy and decided to purchase it. Although she was already working full-time, she wanted to do more to help people through equine therapy.

“My heart wanted to help everyone. But I didn’t know how I was going to make it work. At first, I thought I could split my time between the residential treatment center, helping those who were desperately in need, and the other half of the time helping people before they needed to go to residential care,” Samantha said. But, after much thought, she realized that she wanted to put complete focus on helping people through equine therapy in an effort to prevent them from needing residential care.

“This is such a powerful therapy modality, and I felt the general public should have direct and early access to early intervention before it is too late for outpatient help,” she said.

Since purchasing the ranch, Samantha has developed it into a beautiful and therapeutic place to provide equine services to those in need. TriStar Ranch offers equine-assisted psychotherapy, equine-assisted EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy), equine-assisted learning, horsemanship lessons, equine courses, riding lessons, and camps for kids and teens. With 10 horses ranging from 7 months to 14 years old, each has a personality that different people are drawn to and can benefit from.

“Something different about TriStar Ranch is that we always have at least one baby horse around,” Samantha said. “The power of having a baby horse around is that they can show you the healthy struggle of life and that everyone is worthy.”

During summer camps, TriStar Ranch uses horses to help teach teens how to handle their emotions and develop life skills.

“There are three natures of the horse that make them the ideal animal to help you learn core life skills,” Samantha said. She explained how horses are prey animals, giving them the instinct to observe humans very carefully. Horses react to our emotional, mental, or physical response, called “mirroring.”

“The horse’s ‘mirroring’ provides immediate nonbias feedback to the client of what is going on for them. Half of our battle is understanding what we are feeling. The horse can provide that feedback for us to look further into what is going on in us and why,” Samantha said.

Horses are herd animals who stay safe in the wild by having an alpha. It is important to be the alpha when working with these animals. One must balance passive and aggressive communication around horses to take charge without being too forceful. “Horses teach humans how to have calm assertiveness, which is a skill everyone needs to have,” Samantha said.

Horses are very curious animals. They want to investigate their surroundings and communicate nonverbally by pushing, kicking, or biting. Samantha explained that “this curious and pushy nature of a horse is perfect for teaching people how to have healthy boundaries. They will be in your space and pushy if you do not have any boundaries. If your boundaries are too big, they will stay away, and you will be unable to form a real relationship with them.”

TriStar Ranch also provides helpful equine services to veterans. Coming from a military family, Samantha has witnessed the positive effect that animals can have on those struggling with PTSD. “My father was a Vietnam Veteran who suffered from PTSD, and the only time he was truly at peace was when he was around animals,” Samantha said. “It blew my mind growing up how this explosive person could be so still and calm around animals, specifically dogs and horses.”

Because of this experience, Samantha wanted to help bring that same peace to other veterans. So, at TriStar Ranch, she offers various services to help meet each veteran’s individual needs. For example, equine-assisted psychotherapy, equine- assisted EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy), and horsemanship lessons provide different ways for veterans to process and work through issues that have arisen during or after service, desensitize their extreme reactions, or be around horses to feel calm. “Talk therapy is not for everyone,” Samantha said. “That is when equine therapy comes in.”

When equine therapy saved Samantha Draney’s life, she decided she wanted to use horses to help others in need.

Visit to learn more about TriStar Ranch and the services provided there, sign up for upcoming events, or to donate to a veteran.