Buck the Trend Wrap Up

To consider the state of mental health in the U.S., especially in our agricultural communities, is to see a landscape fraught with troubles. Especially since the pandemic, suicide and substance abuse rates have increased while access to help remains elusive for many.

What can we do about it?

Held last month in southwestern Colorado, Buck the Trend (BTT), a two-and-a half-day mental health forum designed specifically for working cowboys, ranchers, farriers, and horse trainers, added its efforts to the cause.

The workshop, designed by two therapists and director Maddy Butcher, covered topics to help attendees navigate relationships with partners and co-workers. Participants role-played scenarios involving suicidality. They learned about neuroscience, how to spot breakdowns in conversation, myths around therapy, the impact of shame, and creating safe spaces for sharing struggles. They took questionnaires and tests to identify at-risk behaviors and social styles.

It was an intense, demanding, and rewarding weekend, said participants.

“It showed me that my stresses are legitimate,” said a horse trainer from Ohio. “The forum was a break from the day to day, to focus our attention for a bit.”

Attendees and facilitators at BTT

Pre- and post-event surveys reflected the weekend’s growth opportunities:

  • Before the forum, attendees had little or no understanding of RAIN, an acronym for Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Nurture, a mindfulness practice to help counter reactive behavior. Afterwards, eighty percent reported having high or moderate understanding and interest of it.
  • Before BTT, 90 percent of participants had no knowledge of ACE, a test to assess Adverse Childhood Experience. High ACE scores can help identify potential mental health and substance abuse struggles in adulthood. Afterward, all reported a high level of understanding.
  • Before BTT, most participants reported little or no knowledge of the latest research on shame and why it is important to recognize and work with shame in oneself and others. After the weekend, all reported a high or moderate understanding of it.

It wasn’t an easy weekend. “I feel like my brain has been run through a knot hole,” said one Colorado rancher with a smile. Most welcomed the experience, making friendships and connections to last a lifetime, they said. They learned skills and shared struggles.

“I don’t like change,” admitted one New Mexico rancher. “But I dang sure like growth.”

The ripple effects from this small gathering are already being felt widely. Thousands have listened to four podcast episodes dedicated to the forum and attendees have shared their reflections widely with their own reflections on YouTube and social media. Plans are being made to hold to regular BTT forums around the rural west.

Head here for BTT index page.


Group discussion at BTT

Here are podcast episodes with interviews from participants. Listen here or find the Best Horse Practices podcast on your favorite platform.

Dan Flitner, Oregon rancher and horseman 

BTT Therapists KD Bryant and Joseph Prekup

Daniel Dauphin, Louisiana trainer and bit expert

Sara Lowe, Wyoming trainer and clinician


Watch Sara Lowe’s five-minute talk here.

Watch Daniel Dauphin’s nine-minute BTT review here.

Donate to Buck the Trend here

Posted in Clinicians, Equine Professionals, Mental Health, Podcast and tagged , , , .

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