About Blue Star Ranch

Blue Star Ranch is an equine-assisted safety-net provider for mental health services with internationally recognized certification. The horses help veterans overcome known barriers to engaging and staying in treatment. They can help families in post deployment transition build resilience.

The ranch was founded by Nancy and John Zhe. Nancy spent 27 years designing equine therapy programs for children and adults with various life challenges i.e.; disabled children and adults, at-risk youth, recovering coma patients, recovering cancer patients, senior citizens, and so forth. John served two tours in Vietnam and knows first hand how difficult the adjustment is when soldiers return home.

Nancy and John met in 2006, married in 2008, and founded Blue Star Ranch in 2014. They are joined by a wonderful staff, advisory board, and simply unique equine therapists.

Why Do We Need Blue Star Ranch?

According to the Department of Defense, it is estimated that there are 22 suicides per day with out post-9/11 combat veterans.

The New England Journal of Medicine estimates cases of PTSD to be 13-20%. More than 2.6 million personnel have served post 9/11. The Rand Institute study “Invisible Wounds of War” shows that the number could be as high as 36%.

This increase in number has swamped the already overwhelmed VA and the needs for outside programs to help those who suffer from PTSD are needed.

What Causes PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first brought to the attention of the medical community by war veterans. Hence the name “battle fatigue” and “shell shock syndrome.” However, PTSD can occur in anyone who has experienced a traumatic or series of traumatic events. As with most mental health problems, PTSD is a result of many factors, including the severity of the trauma experienced and even how a person’s chemical makeup processes that trauma.

How is Blue Star Ranch Funded

How is Blue Star Funded

Blue Star Ranch is a non-profit organization and relies completely on donations and fund-raising. Services to our veterans and their families is 100% FREE and will always be. All donations are tax-deductible.

Member of EAGALA


We are a member of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). EAGALA is made up of 4,000 members in 49 countries who train and certify equine specialists and mental health professionals.

Meet the Team

Meet the Staff

Blue Star boasts a full staff of professional, highly-experienced counselors and a full line of highly trained and therapeutic horses and other animals. We pride ourselves on staffing truly dedicated professionals.

The Role of the Horse in This Healing Method

Horses are real and present beings. They live in the here and now.  They constantly build and maintain positive relationships with each other and their environment.

Equine Therapy pairs veterans (and sometimes veterans and their spouses) with horses. Under the supervision of a counselor or other mental health care professional, assisted by an equine specialist, they work through a series of exercises to improve communication and collaboration. They do not ride the horses; rather they lead them through a series of collaborating exercises. Horses sense emotions in humans and reach accordingly. If humans are being aggressive, horses will leave.  If humans are acting in a relaxed manner, the horse is also relaxed and happy to work on interaction.

This is the atmosphere needed to bring emotional problems to the surface for examination.

The Birth of Blue Star Ranch

“Blue Star Ranch started by request.  Knowing my 27+ year background with equine therapy, several members of the Habitat for Humanity Project for Veterans in Santa Clarita approached me and asked if I could offer my services for military veterans and their families.

Since I had recently met (and married) my husband who is a Vietnam Veteran I was very interested in the proposal. It has been my style over the years to design equine therapy programs for children and adults with various challenges (disabled children and adults, at-risk youths, recovering cancer survivors, recovering coma patients, senior citizens, etc.) so the idea, although a challenge, seemed to be a natural fit. ”

– Nancy Pitchford, Founder

Meet Our Board Of Directors

Nancy Zhe


Erika Kauzlarich-Bird

Vice President

Deborah Stanley


John Castagna


Jack Hernandez

BOD Member

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