Carla and John Plegge are celebrating 30 years of service to CCHO and our family of ministries. This milestone, affectionately known as the Pleggacy, includes bringing equine therapy to the residential campus and then to the general public at One Heart Stables.
There were two horses at CCHO in 1990 when the Plegges arrived to start their ministry career as house parents on the Wooster residential campus. This was a role they were devoted to for 17 years—encouraging, supporting, teaching youth from hard places. Programmatically, working with the horses, enjoying trail rides and helping out with barn chores were part of residential life. During that time, Carla also pursued a social work degree at the University of Akron. Her goal was to formalize the equine program with animals as a powerful connective tool to help children and teens heal from their brokenness.
Carla’s passion for horses started as a child. Her Uncle Charlie raised horses and she grew up around them, spending time at the farm in the summer. It was a perfect fit for her to extend her therapeutic training at the Natural Lifemanship Institute.
Carla’s heart is also for youth in residential treatment centers. She sees how much these hurting kids need and crave trusting adults to come alongside them and help them find a better way. She loves watching the lightbulb moments—when the knowledge clicks. “It’s amazing to watch a child turnaround,” said Carla. “Then they are able to pass it on to the next generation.”
One of Carla’s younger clients was recently struggling to make progress in her program. In equine therapy, Carla engages the client and the horse in a relationship logic technique with the goal of establishing a connection with one another. This particular child was feeling frustrated and angry and couldn’t connect with her horse, Adam, a bay Thoroughbred gelding. And yet, she came back week and after week, never giving up. One day in the arena, Adam didn’t appreciate the young girl’s dishonesty and backed away from her, walking to the other side of the space. Carla pulled the young client aside and the tears and emotion began to overflow. As she finally expressed her true feelings and her doubts about herself and her family, Adam walked over and put his head on the young girl’s shoulder. With vulnerability and authenticity came the connection she longed for.
These are the moments that make the hard work matter most. “Knowing the Lord and depending on Him allows me to be the instrument to bring about healing through equine therapy,” said Carla.
Today, if you stop by the big red barn in the center of campus, you’ll find eight horses in the stalls ready to work with clients. In addition to the residential program, equine therapy has been available to children and adults in the general public through Encompass for four years now. Carla and her clinical team are helping this trauma-informed program grow, serve more children and adults, and become a premiere program.
We are grateful for Carla’s dedication to CCHO and One Heart Stables. She and her husband John have helped countless individuals and families experience their worth in Christ over three decades of ministry. Thank you for your Pleggacy.