Laura Bosco has loved horses all her life. After Hurricane Michael damaged her property in Northwest Florida, she found herself answering a new calling to help others and continue her work with the animals she calls her lifesavers.
“I grew up with horses,” Laura says. “From the time I was 13 until the time I left for the Air Force, I volunteered with a therapeutic riding program in Michigan.
“I always found a place, wherever I was stationed, to volunteer at and to work my way up to instruct.”
After retiring from the military in 2012, Laura began giving riding lessons on her farm in Virginia, where she and her husband had been stationed.
“I would do what I would call backyard lessons,” Laura says. “I usually had children with special needs, autistic children or their siblings. I just basically opened my farm up to that. I enjoyed it, was working, but then I had my moment. I basically broke.”
She says she became overwhelmed with post-traumatic stress disorder, having been sexually assaulted while serving in the military.
“Thankfully, my husband was very supportive,” Laura says. “My kids were awesome. And the horses were my therapy. They are what helped me through that time.
“I’ve always known that to be the case for me, but it really came to light then.”
Following a series of family traumas in 2018—including the death of her husband in an auto accident—Laura took time off. She soon found herself in Northwest Florida dealing with storm repairs in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
“We had a house down here that my husband and I purchased when we were stationed here in Florida,” she says. “We kept it as a rental and, when we both were ready to retire, we thought maybe we’d move back here.
“When I came down to look at my house, I told God I was done. I told God I wasn’t going to do this anymore, that I needed time for me. I was going to only keep a couple of horses.”
Then she met HOPE Project founder David Trogdon and saw the work he was doing.
“I said, ‘OK, God, I will help. I’ll bring a couple of horses, but I’m not doing this full time. I’ll just help out,’” Laura says.
Two years later, she finds herself living on a farm, devoting her time and resources to the work of Hope Project.
“I didn’t want to do it,” she says. “I was kicking and screaming, telling God no, telling him I need to heal, this is my time, and He said, ‘No, Laura, your healing is by helping others.’ God put David in my pathway. He opened a door for me to work with Hope.”
Laura’s work on the farm—now called Hope 20—is primarily with children with special needs, and women and children who have been abused.
Instead of focusing on their fears or shortcomings, Laura uses equine therapy to motivate them to focus on what they can do.
“We’re going to see what you can do, and we’re going to accomplish what you can,” she tells her clients. “I have a client, through the ARC of the Bay, who’s now able to work and get paid. She relates to animals. She’s learning how to care for horses. But she’s also learning how to work on social behavior. We’re giving her life skills.”
It is just one of the lives touched through Hope.
While Laura resisted this chapter of her life, she has come to realize that helping others find their skills and strengths and helping others heal is exactly what she is supposed to be doing.
“God has a great sense of humor, because now I am completely a part of Hope and now they can’t get rid of me,” she says. “When we say no to something, we’re saying no to an opportunity to not only heal our own self and endure our grief, but to step out of that and open the door to help others. And while helping others, we’re healing.”