Steele Magnolia Sanctuary: A Haven of Healing and Hope for Horses and Humans

by | Dec 2023

SOME STORIES with a heart-breaking beginning turn into examples of love, grace, and miracles. One of those stories is Steele Magnolia Sanctuary, located in Robertson County, in Cedar Hill. The sanctuary, founded by Julie Scarborough and her husband in July 2019, began as a simple act of compassion toward horses in need. Little did they know that this journey would lead them to create a haven for horses and humans. 

The Scarboroughs started their mission by rescuing horses to provide a home for a few in distress. However, their initial encounter with two emaciated horses purchased by a kill buyer shook them to the core. Julie recalls the heartbreaking moment when they unloaded the horses from the truck, their bodies frail, sickly, and seemingly devoid of life. Not knowing the challenges ahead, the Scarboroughs embarked on a rehabilitation journey, nursing the horses back to health and vitality. 

The transformation in these horses was not only physical but also emotional. A light returned to their eyes, along with a sense of trust, safety, and life. This profound change sparked the Scarboroughs’ realization of the therapeutic potential horses held for humans. 

Drawing on her riding instruction background, Julie saw the therapeutic benefits of equine interactions. Witnessing people overcome fear and trauma through bonding with horses during rehabilitation inspired her to extend this healing opportunity to struggling individuals, families, and children for free. 

The Scarboroughs decided to open their sanctuary to those in need, establishing a program known as Equine Time, a free-of-charge program designed to provide a variety of non-mounted therapeutic equine-assisted activities for children, youth, and adults in need. This vital initiative allows individuals, families, and veterans to connect with horses through grooming and unhurried time together. In a world where equine events are often a luxury for the affluent, Steele Magnolia Sanctuary offers a unique and free opportunity for those who might not otherwise have access. 

What should one expect from Equine Time? Each participant is paired with either a horse or a miniature horse for a one-hour session in the beautiful surroundings of the sanctuary. Referred to as “mini sessions,” the interactions with the miniature horses provide the same therapeutic advantages as those with the larger horses, making them accessible for adults who may request a mini session. These sessions include various activities, such as grooming and acquiring fundamental horsemanship skills, engaging in barn and farm chores, playing games, or merely sitting back and observing the horses’ natural behavior.

Who is eligible for a session? The sanctuary welcomes individuals confronting various life challenges, including emotional, spiritual, physical, or financial difficulties. Folks navigating high-stress jobs or challenging family situations would benefit, as well as those who have experienced trauma, anxiety, feelings of depression, self-worth concerns, or a sense of loneliness.

Though COVID slowed them down, the sanctuary’s commitment to providing therapeutic services remained unwavering. Families, both together and individually, participate in therapy sessions, forming connections with the horses and, in turn, aiding in the animals’ ongoing recovery.

Julie explains that Steele Magnolia Sanctuary’s horses arrive with diverse backgrounds, including owner surrenders due to various circumstances, seniors with health issues, and those rescued from hoarding, abuse, or neglect. The rehabilitation process is a labor of love. Julie is supported by her husband, father-in-law, and a dedicated team of volunteers who share in the feeding duties and contribute to the overall well-being of the horses.

The sanctuary operates on donations and hosts periodic fundraisers to sustain its mission. Recognizing the financial challenges of offering therapy at no cost, Julie emphasizes the importance of community support. Donations ensure the care of the horses and contribute to maintaining and expanding the therapeutic programs that have touched the lives of many. 

Steele Magnolia Sanctuary is not just a haven for horses; it is a sanctuary for the human spirit. Through love, grace, and miracles, Julie Scarborough and her team create a space where horses and humans find healing, hope, and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. GN 

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