Black-owned ranches are becoming more and more prevalent in America’s farmland, and one Atlanta ranch is standing out from the crowd by utilizing horseback riding as a form of meditation.
Daryl Fletcher, proud owner of Stretch Out On Faith Again, or SOOFA for short, has created a space for youths as a means of therapy by riding horses along the trails on his nearly 100-acre land in Fairburn, Georgia.
For over 20 years of his life, Fletcher dreamt of curating an area that would uplift the mental health of his community, knowing first-hand the effect that caring for a horse can have on young people. The Black-owned nonprofit was launched in August 2020 with the aim to equip people of color with the proper tools for emotional growth while also exposing them to a different form of therapy.
Through multiple entrepreneurial ventures, some ending in success and some not, he was ultimately inspired to teach mediation techniques to quell anxiety, fear, and anger issues.
“The name simply is to inspire people,” Fletcher told Travel Noire. “Maybe you tried something before and you need a little bit of encouragement to stretch on faith and try it again.”
SOOFA offers equine-assisted therapy to encourage self-reflection, confidence, and learn how to handle communication around taxing mental health issues.
“We make sure that a person has a connection with the horse they’re riding. We make sure they are comfortable riding that horse, and once we get them saddled, we’re building their confidence because a horse is very in tune with a person’s emotions,” says the founder. “When you’re excited or sad, the horse can feel it. Our experience gives you a glimpse of what we call ‘Equine Assisted Learning Therapy’ to help you be mindful of your emotions.”
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SOOFA’s mission not only encompasses the development of mental wellness, but teaching the skill of horseback riding. The Chattahoochee River is used as a guide for the riders to reset their mindsets and take in nature while learning how to meditate so they would then be able to apply the exercises in their day to day lives.
“The newer generation has become very impatient because of technology. It has given them everything instantly… If you give them seeds and show them how seeds germinate, you now begin to understand what it takes to accomplish a goal. It’s not something that you just wish for. It’s something that you actually have to strategize and be disciplined for,” said Fletcher.