Horses as Healers

Therapy Horses Demonstrate How They Help Humans' Mental Health

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A volunteer from the audience tries to convince Mifi to come with him during a mock veteran's session at Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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Danny Rongo, founder of Dr. Onesong Foundation and Christianna Capra sing a duet during the Spring Reins of Life open house on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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A volunteer from the audience gets close to Dane during a mock veteran's session at Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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A volunteer from the audience tries to convince Mifi to come with him during a mock veteran's session at Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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A volunteer from the audience successfully convinces Dane to come with him during a mock veteran's session at Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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A volunteer from the audience tries to convince Syriana to come with him during a mock veteran's session at Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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A volunteer from the audience tries gets closes to Syriana during a mock veteran's session at Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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A volunteer from the audience walks alongside Mifi during a mock equine assisted psychotherapy session at Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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A volunteer from the audience meets Syriana during a mock equine assisted psychotherapy session at Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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A volunteer from the audience approaches Dane during a mock equine assisted psychotherapy session at Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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Mifi checks out the EAGALA banner during Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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Aravind Krishnan, right, member of Boy Scout Troop 489 speaks about his Eagle Scout project of building a new shelter for the horses during Spring Reins of Life's open house and demo on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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An expectant momma donkey and her daughter greet visitors at Spring Reins of Life's open house on June 3, 2018. Credits: Lillian Shupe
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THREE BRIDGES, N.J. — Visitors got a glimpse of how horses are used in mental health therapies during Spring Reins of Life’s open house on June 3.

Spring Reins of Life is a non-profit , EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) model program offering Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) which incorporates the use of horses for therapeutic intervention toward promoting emotional growth and healing.

Due to privacy laws, no one is allowed to observe an actual session so volunteers were picked from the audience for abbreviated mock sessions. The team of professionals which includes psychotherapists and equine experts explained what was going on.

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There is no riding is involved. Instead the clients interact with the horses which are free to reciprocate — or simply walk away. During the demonstrations, the horses reacted differently to different people. After the session the volunteers were asked to describe their experience in one word. One gentlemen used the word "stubborn." He at first tried to get Mifi to come with him by using a yellow, plastic chain as a lead. Mifi walked way, repeatedly. Earlier though, Mifi allowed woman to get close to her, hand feed her grass and even walked alongside her.   

Christianna Capra, founder of the organization explained that using “clean words” was important in asking  the clients about what they experienced. The idea is not to influence their thinking by choosing the wrong words but allow what they actually feel or think to come to the surface. The clients often project their own feelings when describing what the horse was doing and why. For example, instead of saying the client was walking with the horse, she would say they walked alongside each other. The word "with" implies a bond which may not actually exist. 

Maria Katsamanis, Psy.D, BCB, an EAGALA Certified Mental Health Professional as well as an EAGALA Certified Equine Specialist along with Erin Reyhan, LCSW, EAGALA Certified Mental Health Professional explained what they look for during the sessions. They said they look for patterns and changes in the behaviors or actions of both horses and humans.

Spring Reins of Life provides services to military veterans and their families, bereaved children, at-risk/high-risk youth and addiction recovery.

Danny Rongo, a singer, ordained minister and founder of the Dr. Onesong Foundation http://dannyrongo.com/the-dr-onesong-foundation/ provided entertainment and emceed the event.

Also at the open house was Aravind Krishnan, a member of Boy Scout Troop 489 who is working on building a new shelter for the horses so they can have access to more pasture space. He needs to raise $5,000 for the project. He is holding a walkathon on June 16 at Ann Van Middlesworth Park in Hillsborough. For more information contact him at 732-614-7125 or aravindmkrishnan@gmail.com or his project coach at jkwirz@comcast.net.

There is also a contest to guess when a momma donkey will deliver her next foal. The donkey and her baby from last year were rescued by the farm owner and given to Capra as a Christmas gift in December. It was not known at the time that the mother was pregnant again so her due date is anyone’s guess. The average gestation length in donkeys is about one year and donkeys can conceive again as early as five days after birth.

For more information about Spring Reins of Life see www.springreinsoflife.org, call 347-886-2798 or e-mail info@springreinsoflife.org

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