In 2008, I attended a dinner for a good friend and met someone that told me a miraculous story. She shared with me a life changing event about her daughter taking her first steps after riding a horse even after the doctors expected a very different outcome. I already knew horses had healing powers from years of riding and had been looking for an opportunity to volunteer at a special place. Her story brought me to tears and I typed Red Arena in my phone immediately. I contacted them the next week and started as a side walker. The riders and horses had such an impact on me that I had to do more. Now, nine years later I have been blessed to witness such a great organization grow and change so many lives. Reagan is just one of the miracles that happens every day at Red Arena. I was so lucky to sit next to her Mom that night.
Author: Andrea Wenholz
Andrea has been a RED Arena Volunteer since 2008 and also serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors as well as a Round-Up Chair.
Equine Assisted Counseling
Equine Assisted Counseling (EAC) is a form of therapy for many common mental health concerns including trauma, grief, loss and relationship issues. It is an emerging field with a growing body of research to support its effectiveness.
EAC sessions are especially impactful with children, youth and families. Our experiential or “hands on” approach offers an alternative to traditional office-based talk therapy. Other forms of experiential therapy (e.g. wilderness therapy, play therapy, expressive therapy) have similar therapeutic goals but use different forms of expression to attain those goals. Our therapy is completed on the ground. It is not based on riding, and no horse experience is required.
Why is EAC Unique?
EAC is unique because horses are part of our therapy team! Our sessions are interactive and clients participate in horse activities to achieve non-horse related goals. Sessions are guided by a licensed Therapist, an Equine Specialist and 1-3 horses depending on the unique needs of the client.
Using horses in counseling helps to provide a richer, more engaging therapy experience. Horses are naturally intriguing and often clients are naturally led to ask questions out of curiosity and this facilitates client interaction with the therapy team. As a result, therapeutic rapport can be developed much more quickly than with traditional office-based counseling.
Bringing young people together with horses in a non-traditional way facilitates natural life skill development and has shown to improve communication, problem solving skills, confidence, leadership and teamwork abilities.
Why is EAC So Effective?
We don’t just talk about coping strategies, we actually apply the strategies in the moment! For example, a client may be instructed to move a horse over an obstacle in the arena. During this process clients are encouraged to shift the focus away from completing the “task” with the horse to examining what is happening in the relationship during this process or what is happening inside of themselves. While we are directly building relationships with horses we are also addressing any thoughts, feelings, or responses that emerge.
“Mommy, do we get to go to horses today?”
Over the past 8 years, I have heard that many, many times. What a contrast that is to one of the very first times I took William out for physical therapy.
My mom was with me for a visit and she was able to observe how incredibly patient Jennifer was with William as he fought and screamed through the entire hour long session. That event deeply impacted her and my father. They are now whole-hearted donors to RED Arena and to the many programs they implement as well as the people they serve.
I can’t imagine our lives without RED Arena. It has been an integral part of our amazing, difficult, and blessed journey we have taken with our now adolescent son. All the staff have given our family much needed encouragement and support over these many years, ranging from physical therapy to occupational therapy and now to the mental health program. These dedicated folks have loved our family so very faithfully and patiently and we are incredibly thankful and blessed.
This is my 3rd year of Equine (“horse”) therapy, which is my favorite therapy! For an hour each week, I can enjoy my disability!
“Horse” therapy is kind of like physical therapy. In August 2013, I attended the Abilities Expo in Houston. Someone who did stuff with horses was there, & I asked how I could find horse therapy in my area, & they told me what to google...& Red Arena came up on the search engine! When I began, I was unable to speak, & flimsy like a rag doll! I took Physical Therapy for about 2 years, but nothing seemed to really help me….however, after just a few months of riding a horse, the strength in my core was remarkable! I can now lean forward, push myself back up, sit in a chair without arms unassisted, etc. Equine (“horse”) therapy isn’t just limited to building core strength, building endurance, or helping a person to work on their balance, but it has also strengthened my upper body, replaced many of my anxieties with confidence, increased my independence, & helped me to strengthen my breathe support, so after 10 years, I am finally able speak again! I started horse therapy "just because"--I had NO idea of the many benefits, & I only wish that I had started sooner!