Corral Riding Academy: Empowering At-Risk Youth

Photos courtesy of Corral Riding Academy

The mission to provide transformational healing to at-risk teen girls was given a new sense of certainty as we buried a time capsule during Corral Riding Academy’s End of Year Celebration on June 3, 2017. Anyone who volunteers regularly knows certainty is not a familiar feeling when running a nonprofit organization! This made the dedication that day deeply meaningful, signaling that Corral’s impact in the community had been secured far into the future.

Actually, the Corral name is an acronym: Centered on Riding, Rehabilitation and Learning. This represents our dual mission to provide equine assisted psychotherapy and academic intervention free of charge to young women in Wake County. In short, we take the kids who have the best chance of falling through the cracks and use rescued horses to show them how to reset their own trajectory toward a healthy, productive life.

However those changes do not come easily — nor do the resources which make our program possible. As we challenge our girls to trade a victim mentality for healthy relational boundaries, we are continuously challenged to keep the farm gates open. We provide a safe haven for girls to overcome very tough, unsafe experiences. Healing changes take tremendous effort and courage, and we have the privilege of interrupting self-destruction and watching as they take on new, healthier ways of coping.

As you can imagine, inspiration comes to us easily with this close up view, regardless of the daily grind and heartbreaking trauma we witness. There is no question our fatigue is worth it! What inspires awe is the knowledge that over the course of three short months, 600 people who had only just heard about our mission helped create the “Million Dollar Miracle,” which secured it.

When the owners of the property Corral had leased since 2009 realized it was time to think about selling, the question was clear: Where will Corral’s future be? After researching all options, the board of directors decided the best property — as daunting as it seemed — was the high-value location on which Corral already stood. As we launched our 2016 fall fundraising campaign we gave ourselves 10 months to raise the seemingly unattainable figure of $1 million, dubbing it our “Forever Home” campaign. Somehow, with the help of media coverage and countless hours of planning, sweating, emailing, praying and making phone calls, this community brought us the unattainable in three months. On January 1st, 2017, our miracle was realized, making us a permanent part of this community.

If nothing else, what I want people to understand about Corral is that it’s not about me. Yes, I am the founder, I do lots of speaking and I am in lots of videos. The truth is, I believe that God gave me what I needed to start this program, and He has kept it going ever since. But then there is this amazing community of people from all walks of life who make this thing run every day! Some share my faith, and some do not, but all come alongside these young women in crucial ways.

They do everything from farm work to office work, from tutoring and vocational training to public relations and development. When it comes to our “Million Dollar Miracle,” as you may have seen it in the Raleigh News and Observer or on WRAL News, the real credit belongs to them, and to a razor-sharp staff I could only have dreamed of when this all began. Thanks to the news agencies who saw something worthy of exposure in us, we took in more than money. New Corral families came alongside current champions to let our girls know that an entire community thinks they are worth a million.

For those of us who knew that all along, that is more than enough inspiration for the next 10 years!

For more information about Corral Riding Academy, visit


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