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Vocational Rehab clients benefit and recover with equine therapy

Pharaoh, a young buckskin horse who was labeled “Mr. Social” by the group reaches in to give Deborah Gould, Voc Rehab job developer, some loving attention. (Lailani Upham photo)

RONAN — The philosophy behind the equine therapy Confederated Salish and Kootenai Voc Rehab clients experienced last week is simple: “Life is about the emotional connection you make.” “As an experienced Equine Specialist and Coaching Professional my goal is to help shape clients perspective into a healthy and productive one through the reflection of a horse,” said Amanda Held, Equine Sense Coaching certified equine specialist. Held, an Air Force veteran said she dealt with her own emotional nightmare from PTSD and found her healing through horse therapy. She rescued and rehabilitated over 100 horses; ten of them wild mustangs. Following her own journey of emotional healing from bipolar disorder and depression she found herself mainly helping military veterans with PTSD issues that eventually led to her starting an equine therapy practice.

“After reaching my own rock bottom, I decided I must find a way to do better than the basics we are taught in life. Embarking on a journey of deep personal discovery and complete self-awareness I found complete healing,” said Held. Held said as she began helping her friends, family and local organizations, their deep seated outcomes motivated her to turn her newfound passion into a full-time career helping people and businesses overcome their greatest challenges. In March of 2017 Held met Shaunda Albert, CSKT DHRD Voc Rehab Program Manager at an Eagala Model training in Denver.

The Eagala Model is an equine-assisted psychotherapy designed around the horse-human relationship.

Albert, a licensed addictions counselor and certified Rehabilitation counselor said witnessing emotional healing in equine therapy she asked Held to help her with Voc Rehab program clients. Held packed her bags to come to the Flathead Reservation to team coach with Albert to help clients in recovery.

Albert said there have been other traditional therapies done with clients, but she was ready to implement a different type of therapy.

CSKT Voc Rehab Program Manager Shaunda Albert and Equine Specialist Amanda Held team together to offer a three-day horse therapy to CSKT Voc Rehab clients at the Ronan Fairgrounds last week. (Lailani Upham photo)

“The Equine Assisted therapy is extremely beneficial for treating chemical dependency, PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), setting boundaries, helping domestic violence victims and other issues. It is my intention to assist our clients and their families and other individuals that have been diagnosed with PTSD and other mental health issues,” said Albert. Albert said she has seen individuals heal and move forward from traumatic experiences by combining various activities with horses. “All the activities take place by allowing clients to interact and build relationships with the horses while addressing specific treatment goals,” said Albert. She said the key is to allow the individual to tell their own story; recognize their own insights and current beliefs; and find their own solutions.

Socialite buckskin horse Pharaoh joins the group talk session on the third day of the workshop. Held said on the first day the participants and horse stayed on each end of the arena. (Lailani Upham photo)

“This bonding process is a very powerful tool to help the individual to learn and establish trust. The quietness of the horse allows for the individual to develop a deeper connection and to learn how to overcome their fears and develop relationships with others. People who have struggled to make progress or achieve their treatment goals have made significant breakthroughs with the aid of Equine Assisted Therapy,” said Albert.

Albert and Held worked as a team last week in a three-day therapy with approximately 8 clients.

Held said she strives to facilitate a judgment-free atmosphere where clients can metaphorically create their struggles with props in the arena. “Participants go through an exercise where the horse isn’t a horse, but a feedback loop or a mirror. There is no riding involved, rather the horse reads the human when they are thinking about their issue and then reflects what that person is feeling,” explained Held.

Roanna Irvine and Beverly Timentwa work together on an exercise to build confidence with the horse to get past obstacles. (Lailani Upham photo)

At times the horses take on the personality of people the client is struggling with, or even the client themselves said Held. “What makes this more effective than any other self-help modality is the client works with the horse to create a solution. They overcome the obstacle in the arena, which provides instant feedback and lasting results,” she said.

“Horses have a unique ability to sense emotions and will react accordingly. If a person is angry or aggressive the horse will become obstinate. If the person has anxiety issues the horse can become skittish,” said Albert. “When a horse is approached by someone who is open and calm, the horse will respond in a quiet gentle manner. When a client is able to witness the horses responses this promotes self-awareness and can help the individual see themselves in a more realistic way. It is the person who comes up with their own life perceptions and the horse aids in this,” said Albert.

As a coach Held observes the horse reading the human and through facilitation helps the person create a metaphor based plan that will transfer to their life. “I have chosen this career path because I have personally overcome PTSD, anxiety and depression and want to pass that healing along to as many people as possible.”

Roanna Irvine brushes Jenny, the black mare, with her hand during a break. (Lailani Upham photo)

Held said last week was the first time she ran a 3-day retreat format and said it far exceeded her expectations. “I truly believe that each and every person who completed this training received what they were searching for. One of the things that I have come to realize is that every single person that shows up was meant to be there and I can always see specifically why. Very neat,” said Held. “All of the clients who completed the training had monumental growth. Each of them said they got the answer they were looking for and they now have a plan to implement these changes; even the few people who were skeptical in the beginning left raving fans. It was unanimous that this was the most valuable self-help tool they have ever experienced,” said Held.

“Each client left with a workbook and a personal mission statement. They now have tools to live powerfully aligned with who they are and some action steps on how to achieve that. I let each of my clients know that I am always available if they need further assistance and I hope to return in Spring for a part two,” said Held.

original article at http://www.charkoosta.com/2017/2017_09_07/healthy_horse_play.html