Acceptance by Stephanie Hart

The following opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the blog owner.  *BEG*  (I’ve always wanted to use that line, plus it’s a true statement.  I still stand where I stood in the discussions of Tao of Equus.)

Hi there!

First off, thanks so much to Mercedes for letting me blither a bit about a topic that is very near to my heart!

Let me introduce myself; My name is Stephanie Hart (MA, for those who like to know these things, and heck, it looks good on a business card ;)), and I am an Equine Psychotherapist.

I usually get asked at this point, “Like for kids with disabilities?”

Well, no, that’s physical or occupational therapy (which is also super important and tends to have many emotional benefits). What I do is take clients who struggle with all sorts of mental and emotional illnesses including anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders, addictions, attachment difficulties, and many more, and I bring them into a space with my equine partners where we promote healing and the development of new relationship and life abilities. If you want to learn more about what I do (or check out our blog and hear from the horses!) our website is www.svetc.webs.com.

Horses bring so much to the table that, to be honest, sometimes I feel like the horses are the “therapist” part of the equation (so remind me what I went to grad school for…). Horses bring many, many (many, many…) things to therapy (for more info see the website [‘scuse my shameless self promotion]), but today I would like to talk about the one that drew me into this work to begin with: Unconditional Acceptance.

Image

Vicky accepts my ridiculousness and I accept her refusal to pose for pictures.

The basics:


 – Horses have few expectations of humans, nor do they hold prejudices against them, making the human-equine relationship a place of emotional safety and trust

 – Through biochemical feedback and subtle body language horses can sense tremendous amounts of emotional information, and they will react to it accordingly. It is impossible to hide emotion from a horse, and as a person comes to realize this they find that the horse’s acceptance is not conditional on their projecting a certain front, as the horse sees through the mask anyway.

So yeah.

I’m going to tell you about the coolest experience I have had with acceptance. Back during my rather less secure days (aka my teenage years and on into my undergrad) I was very anxious and had little inner source of self-esteem, which eventually came to a head in a fairly nasty depression. A lot of this was rooted in my inability to accept myself and my actions, constantly expecting more of myself and being totally crushed when I inevitably failed to measure up.

I’m sure this sounds familiar to plenty of people.

This is when I met Sally.

Sally is a very sweet black and white pinto mare; she was born a wild mustang in Alberta and was rescued from a meat lot at age 9 (yes, she’s Mustang Sally. I had nothing to do with it, I promise). I have never ridden Sally, nor done any work with her beyond giving her a pat in the field. Horses don’t need much of an opportunity to work their magic.

One day while feeling particularly rotten I went out to get my own horse and stopped to pat Sally. It was winter and getting on into the evening so the air was crisp and clear, and together we paused for a moment to look out over the adjacent hay field. As we stood there I got the sense she was scanning me. Being born wild Sally has remarkable instincts and reads people even better than most horses do; she also tends to take a little more careful of a look before relaxing in any given situation. She heaved a big sigh and lowered her head, and as she did I felt deep in my heart that she saw all of me, every little thing that drove me crazy or made me so sad I had to push it down, and that she was perfectly fine with what she saw.

And if she was fine with it, then I was fine too.

In that minisculte moment of connections she lifted a huge weight off my shoulders.  In 10 minutes she had done what therapy can take months to accomplish: then she moved off and went back to the usual business of bossing her herd away from her hay.


Image

This is what they do. They take our troubles and carry them for us just enough so that we can heal and do it on our own.

They are truly remarkable, these animals that we love.

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48 thoughts on “Acceptance by Stephanie Hart

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Stephanie. There’s no arguing that horses are good for us.

    I do have a few general questions. What sort of schooling/programs are offered for Equine Psychotherapy? Is it a recognized field? Do you study plain ole psychotherapy first and then move into the equine part? Is there a requirement/prerequisite for education in horse care/horse management/horse training? Or in the many human related courses required for traditional Equine Therapy programs that involve riding and/or driving?

    I’m also curious what the ratio of women to men are in the field. I note your reference material is all from women, which I didn’t find surprising. The vast majority of people involved at the therapy barn I managed were women.

    • One more thought then I’ll stop!
      I do remember your thoughts on The Tao of Equus, and while I’m probably a little closer to agreeing with her than you are (though not by much on some of it…), there is no unexplainable magic necessary here. I do believe Sally was scanning me, that’s what horses do, and she also showed clear signs of acceptance; but it was how that experience spoke to me and how I chose to believe in it that made such a huge difference. Horses create immediate emotional experiences, the processing of which results in a therapeutic interaction. No unicorn magic required :).

    • Thanks for giving me the opportunity!
      The legalities surrounding practice will depend on where you are, I’m in Ontario so I’ll tell you what it’s like here. Psychotherapy is becoming a regulated profession in Ontario, at the moment anyone can call themselves a therapist, but within a year that will change. I will be a member of the College of Psychotherapy and abide by their ethical standards, becoming a member of the College requires an approved graduate program and around 1000 hours of supervised practice.

      As for Equine work specifically that is unregulated. There are things in the work through NARHA, but registration is voluntary. In fact, if you call it “Equine Assisted Learning” you don’t even need therapeutic credentials. This concerns me somewhat given that those without therapeutic training may or may not have the knowledge and ability to tell when they have crossed the line from “Learning” to “Therapy”. There is also no requirement for an equine background, although a Registered Psychotherapist is ethically bound to only practice within their competencies, so that helps a little. There are, however, multiple programs available that propose different models and offer training. The one I have modeled my practice after comes from Healing Hooves in Alberta, they do attachment based work which is a therapeutic method that I resonate with in my non-equine work, so it makes a lot of sense for me.

      Truthfully, when it comes to choosing an equine therapist it is buyer beware. Check their therapeutic credentials, read things they have written, check out any research they have, and listen to your gut. The field has great potential to help people, especially in cases of deeply rooted trauma IMO (which I plan to do some research with in the future), but it is definitely undergoing some growing pains!

      As for the male/female ratio; I have yet to meet a male EAP. A few do exist, but it is quite a female dominated field (Mind you, so is psychotherapy and social work in general, just not quite as much so)! I have read a great deal of the available research and there are several male authors, I’ve just only tried to post the more approachable overview articles for the time being, I’ll be expanding the research section of the website in the future.

      • Thank you for thoroughly answering my questions. It leads me to a few more if you don’t mind.

        Who’s going to be in charge of the College of Psychotherapist? Academics or government? Will the heads be voted in or is it simply a small group of psychotherapist that decided to get together and form it? Who’s put together/putting together the approved graduate program?

        There will be fees? Yearly? As well as an initial course fee? Exams? Will there be continued education requirements?

        On the male/female topic…what is the ratio for ‘patients’? Do you find more females than males? Does the ratio change depending on the age of the person? I noticed a young boy in one picture on your website.

        I understand several different issues can be dealt with in your practise, but do you find certain issues are more readily solved with horses than others? And while I understand that treatment can vary in length, what is a median length of time or number of treatments.

        Are there specific exercises for person and horse? Do you do leading or grooming or longeing/round penning or is it more hang out and observe?

        What sort of a screening process do you use? Or do you accept all?

        Do you use horses that come with issues (like our Tao author) or are the horses very well trained/adjusted?

        Apologies for all the questions. If I was home, I’d just drive over. 🙂

        • I’ll do my best to answer it all!
          As far as I know the College consists of a mix of government and academics. It appears to be modeled after the College of Social Work and the College of Psychologists. It had been in development for a decade and is based on satisfying the requirements of the Psychotherapy Act (2007) and provide enforceable ethical accountability. Right now there is a transitional council, and I am unsure what the governmental structure will be in the future. There is plenty of information on their website: http://www.crpo.ca/

          There will be yearly dues as well as registration fees. There is a required ethical jurisprudence course (online) and an exam. To answer someone else’s question about my personal qualifications, I am not a member yet because they have not begun enrollment yet. I have met all of the educational requirements as of June 2013 and expect to have completed the hourly requirements by the time of enrollment to be grandfathered in as a full RP and be able to skip the qualifying stage.

          Gender ratio for patients is similar in my currently limited experience. I have also noticed though that there is a majority of women in my non-equine experience as well, though there it appears to me closer to 70/30 as opposed to the 90/10 I’ve seen in EAP (I’m not counting children as it is generally not their choice to come to therapy). Incidentally there are no pictures of clients on my website to protect their privacy, the people in the pictures are friends of mine who were certainly having a real experience with the horses pictured, but they are not therapy clients.

          The question of length is a difficult one to answer as it depends entirely on both the client and the therapist. Personally I prefer relationally based therapy which tends to be long term work (8+ sessions), and as such I end up working with a lot of trauma. Some times though it can be as short as 4 or 5 sessions. I have seen success with many presenting problems, the ones that I lean towards with my modality are often trauma related, self esteem related, or in the mood disorder family. To be honest, if 4 sessions of Solution Focused Therapy is going to do the trick for someone’s issues I say go for it! Equine Therapy is expensive and can take time; it is one thing in the toolbox and is for whoever wants to do it as opposed to talk therapy.
          On that note, I have yet to turn away a client, but I do begin with an assessment (an unscripted conversation about their goals and history that allows me to determine if EAP will be suitable) followed by an introduction to the horses (usually with the horses in stalls so there is a barrier between the client and the horse) so I can assess for any safety risks. There are some issues which would not likely be helped by EAP; for instance if someone came to me with a phobia I would suggest they start with a psychologist for some CBT. The goal is healing, and if I believe that a client will be better served by a competency I don’t have I will refer them.

          For exercises I say all of the above! I follow the horse’s lead, as well as the client’s lead. Some days we will observe the herd and process practical learning from their interactions, other days we will do some bonding through grooming, and sometimes we will do hands on activities like leading or communicating in the round pen. We will usually process together immediately following the experience, and sometimes we will leave the horses for a while and go talk in depth about what happened and the emotions experienced.

          All of the horses I currently use are very well adjusted with excellent ground manners, I believe this is important for safety purposes. Some do come from challenging circumstances, but they have spent enough time doing healing of their own with their owner that they can engage with a client without being traumatized themselves. They also get to choose if they want to work that day, they start each session in their stalls and if they wish to disengage they can move away from the door (this can become a helpful experience in boundaries for clients). The other requirements I have for horses that I use is that I need to get along with them and know them pretty well (we all know sometimes we just clash with a horse, and when working with a client is not the time to be addressing my relationship with the horse), and I prefer if they are used to being listened too (not that they walk all over their handlers, but that they are accustomed to having their feelings heard and respected within appropriate boundaries).

  2. You’ve said to be a member requires you “to undertake an approved graduate program and around 1000 hours of supervised practice and that you “will be a member”.”

    Does that mean that currently you’re not qualifed to that level and not a member, but are working towards it?

    Precisely what is this graduate programme? What was the qualification? Are you actually qualified or going to be to diagnose mental health conditions?

    Who supervises the “supervised practice”? How are they regulated? What is their validation for being a fit and proper competent person?

    In your case you’re specifically using horses to facilitate behavioural change / learning experience… what qualification do you have for that and in relation to being able to train and manage horses?

    What’s your background and experience in terms of having your clients ride?

    How are the horses you use selected and trained?

    Are your clients referred to you by medical health practitioners or social workers?

    Do bodies like the aforementioned fund this “equine therapy” or does the user just pay?

    If not then how do they come to you? Is it just a normal business thing whereby you market and advertise and promote you and they choose you and pay for the service?

    I notice on your web site you say you don’t get government funding and are asking for donations. Are you a registered charity already or is that something you’re also trying to do? Do you have published accounts that are available?

    I saw that you’re trying to get non-profit tax status but I can’t see on your web site what stage you’re at: who are your directors? (Your web site doesn’t say) What category are you applying under?

    You’ve said you have corporate sponsorship. Who and how much money and what is that money used for?

    How are you funding all the business costs and including things like premises, staff, etc etc?

    How long have you been operating?

    I’ve run an RDA group for over 30 years. My centre was featured on television a few years ago during National Learning Disabilities Week and we’ve also been featured because of the work I undertake with regard to access and physical therapy for those with physical disability and by providing horse riding and carriage driving. I’m male.

    • Yo, hoof….are you always coming on here all condescending and self-righteous? Your questions, and those of Mercedes, confirm my belief that all the regulating in the world will never, ever, create equally certified professionals for shoeing or psychotherapy. Emotional problems are highly complex and the profession certainly has contradictory methods of treatment including cognitive behavior modification, group therapy, private therapy, medication….and you will not treat a person diagnosed as bi-polar the same as your would treat a personality disorder such as borderline or anti-social disorder. Knowing the difference in these disorders is typically only understood by a psychiatrist and should be diagnosed by such before anyone ‘certified’ as a therapist is allowed to work with the individuals. I went to the funeral of a multi-decade friend in 2012 and met his long-term ‘counselor’. I’d seen this friend for the first time in 5+ years and his actions and behavior convinced me he was bipolar and in the midst of a manic episode, which I shared with him. He then brought this to the attention of his “counselor” who responded that he didn’t believe this and that treatment consisted of ‘dangerous drugs’ and dismissed my theory completely. Doubting myself, I let it go. Not a month later my friend drove into a tree at a high rate of speed, sans seat belt and died instantly. Suicide being a common final act of a manic episode. In a manic state, the brain drives the body harder, longer and faster than it can react, preventing sleep with constant racing thoughts, self-loathing and no self control. He was treated for 30 years based on life experiences, which were horrible to say the least, with all focus on experiences and not on SYMPTOMS. I have no training in psychology and I’m 100% sure that I had diagnosed him correctly but didn’t believe in myself because I didn’t have the ‘certification’ and those who did ultimately missed the signs that lead to a painful, roller coaster life until an untimely, horrific death. But, hey…the counselor had ‘certification’.

      I believe that horses are therapeutic but if the horses aren’t completely balanced, trusting and respectful, they aren’t ready to ‘teach’ others. In this blog, Stephanie explains to us that Vicky ‘refuses to stand still for pictures’. My take on this? A horse can’t grasp the concept of pictures, it is impossible for them to understand pixels and digital recreation. The horse can, however, tell others that it is nervous and uncomfortable and not trusting her rider. Look into Vicky’s eyes and tell me who sees a relaxed, balanced horse? If this is considered a therapy horse, then I call idealized for the benefit of the owner – not reality or truth. Horses, IMO, do not carry our pain, they give us a way of letting it go and focusing on something more primitive and instinctual. A relationship with life in its most basic form built on the basis of trust and silent communication which opens our heart into something more, living in the moment instead of a painful past or fearful future. They teach us honesty in a basic, understandable way and this is calming and relaxing to us.

      p.s. I knew you were a man.

      • And my dear you clearly have issues and a vivid imagination. But I don’t know why you feel the need to project your silliness and insecurities on me.

        Incidentally in asking question I wasn’t seeking to influence you or persuade you of anything.

        Frankly it’s not all about you.

        You’re a drama queen!

        But as you asked when I look at the horse above I am not seeing “relaxed and balanced”. I can’t see past the feet and get by wondering what it has on it’s forelegs.

        • You really are a dick, or was that a penis? If you think I’m silly for telling a true story about an improperly treated person resulting in his DEATH, then the thought of you responsible for the mental health of others scares the shit out of me. YOU my dear are making everything about you, not me and YOU are going to destroy lives trying to stroke your own ego. Everyone is insecure about some aspect of their lives, you get no points there. Your questions were as condescending as hell because you want to prove that Stephanie is doing something illegal, shady or poorly so you can tell us how YOU do it better. Stephanie has a vivid openness to others evident in her post and her reasons for doing what she does are selfless. I disagree with her interpretation of horses’ thoughts but not in her level of passion for what she is trying to do for others. You are all about YOU with a great, big, male ego first and others a distant second.

          • Well I was surprised to hear hoo4hearted was a man! I guess that’s just my subconscious working that way, when I’m out riding I always refer to a predator (like a hawk) as a “she” and to prey (like a rabbit) as a “he”. Not that I really believe we are better in any way, and I know that we are generally gender non specific here, I just assumed we were all women! Sorry!

          • Blondemare,

            That might make a darned good story but your flights of fantasy into my motivation really are precisely that!

            For the record the reason I said you were “projecting silliness and insecurities on me”

            It’s silly to suggest that questions are anything other than seeking to ascertain an answer or to gain understanding or get better information. Condescending and self-righteous is in your head not in mine!

            It’s also silly to suggest that because someone asks questions that regulation doesn’t work in terms of driving up professional standards!

            So be clear my comment was nothing to do with YOUR story about YOUR friend.

            I don’t have a clue if Stephanie is doing something illegal, shady or poorly. Not a clue!

            Indeed it’s pretty bloody obvious from the questions both I and Mercedes asked that we don’t actually know how she operates.

            But then you think it’s just condescending to try to find out what someone’s doing.

            You seem to have read a lot into what was never said. Seems in your head Stephanie (who I presume you don’t actually know) is passionate and open and selfless in doing what she does with her new enterprize.

            Seems though I’ve run run an RDA group over 30 years for the hell of it.

            Very silly!

          • Learning that hoofhearted is a man changes my perceptions. Since I try to see the best in people, I was willing to see comments about “silly women horse owners” as being tongue-in-cheek, assuming that was coming from a woman. From a man it’s misogynistic, plain and simple.

          • Weinie…er, I mean Hoo4 dude, you once again missed my entire point quite blatantly. All of your questions were regarding the wrong end of the horse. The most important part of Stephanie’s credentials are her RESULTS. Your questions were about her training first and foremost, her qualifications on paper, her methods, etc. Since many of us believe that certification isn’t the cure all, end all to find an appropriate professional, why are those the only questions you asked? Why not ask how many peoples’ lives she’s changed? I won’t bore you with my “silly” true experiences with their superperson skills on paper any longer as you are determined to mock real life failures to support your criteria requirement point of view because you, sir, are about your ego first and helping people second IMO. You may want to consider another profession.

        • She’s wearing open front boots.
          That picture and the caption was comic relief, nothing more, I apologize if that wasn’t clear. It was snapped in the middle of a fun photo session when Vicky and I were being a bit silly.
          The same horse is pictured in the bottom photo, which is a more accurate representation of our relationship. Incidentally, she is my personal horse and does not currently do therapy. She and I have come a long way in both of our healing, but I do not believe she is in a place where she would benefit from helping clients, so she doesn’t.

          There were a few more questions in there, so I jsut wanted to clarify that my practice is brand new, it just opened in September. I am in the beginning stages of applying for charitable status, meaning I have decided that this is the direction I want to go (as my overall goal is to advance the practice of Equine Psychotherapy and make it available to all those who need it, not just those who can afford it). I am still investigating which category is best for the Centre. I receive referrals from multiple sources including usual business marketing, but the cost can be prohibitive for many potential clients.

          My degree is a Master of the Arts in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy from Wilfrid Laurier University. The only people who can diagnose mental illnesses are Psychologists or Psychiatrists, so I will assess for symptoms (and refer for formal assessment if they would benefit from diagnosis and/or medication), but my purview is strictly therapy. Hoofhearted brings up a good point about riding, I do most of my work on the ground but I am open to having clients sit on the horse as I find being carried to be a powerful metaphor (many models don’t use any riding at all). My qualifications for that include certification as an instructor with the OEF 8 years ago, and experience in my own small riding school which I operate completely separate from the therapy centre. He is completely right that it is all too easy for people lacking qualifications with horses to get into this field (some training programs require no previous horse experience).

          I have been supervised by a range of people, mostly MSWs with a minimum of 20 years experience each (I believe the requirement is 5 years). I am currently supervised by an MSW who has completed all phases of Healing Hooves’ training and has been practicing EAP for several years.

          Keep the questions coming 🙂

          • You said “Keep the questions coming :)”

            I presume you’re still going to provide the missing answers to the ones I’ve already asked?
            You said you’d just only just started up a couple of months ago. If you’ve actually started then did you do a business plan or a budget / revenues and expenditure plan etc? How long are you prepared to support this if you don’t get donations and charitable status and not for profit status?

            You said you’re deciding what category to apply for charitable status. Obviously if you don’t get charitable status then you won’t be able to get your “not for profit” … or am I wrong with that presumption?

            What happens if you can’t be get charitable status or meet the eligibility criteria for “not for profit”?

            Do you have a related business?

          • Hoofhearted, charitable and not-for-profit, in Canada, are different but related things, and the distinction is mainly to do with tax treatment (charities can give receipts allowing the donor to claim a tax deduction, non-profits cannot). Charitable status is somewhat onerous to obtain so tends to be fairly big, well-established organizations. It is fairly straightforward to become a non-profit. Lots of organizations like sports teams, arts clubs, etc. are non-profits. You are indeed wrong, if she does not get charitable status she can still be non-profit. Or she can become non-profit while working on getting her charitable status.

          • After reading a little bit about equine assisted psychotherapy during our discussions on the Tao of Equus, it seems like an interesting idea to pursue into practice, at least long enough to develop sufficient techniques and programs that can then be evaluated for efficacy.

            Some of the basic premises have a logical appeal. Many people are drawn to horses, if not to create a close relationship, at least to watch from a ‘safe’ distance. Clearly mankind has a very long history of interaction with horses, the history of man, at least until the 20th century, has largely been the history of man and horse, war horse, beast of burden, transportation as well as integral to art and culture. Most of us know some of the oldest extant paintings include horses. They have been accorded spiritual status for a long time by many cultures.

            In the 20th century, we have lost touch with horses in our day to day lives, few of us have the familiarity with horses that would have existed about 100 years ago. So to many people they are unfamiliar and fear inducing large animals that seem totally foreign and unknowable, large black boxes that are unpredictable and inscrutable.

            The combination of fascination, admiration and fear they create in most people, make them excellent candidates to provide ‘experiential’ therapy. The other attributes of horses that most horse people admire, honesty, curiosity, desire for social connections, kindness, forgiveness, sensitivity and intelligence, also contribute to the potential they hold for people to learn how to connect and interact with another being. And their ability to reflect emotions and actions back to people seal the deal so to speak.

            People who don’t know much about horses will approach a horse with the tools they have. Generally, their usual behaviors about meeting, greeting, and interacting with people. Their size and unfamiliarity will probably induce enough fear and insecurity in most people to intensify those behaviors so they are easy to identify, both for the therapist and a large number of the patients. A mirror to the soul if one likes to use poetic phrases.

            I believe that horses make judgments, but aren’t judgmental. What you are feeling and doing now is what they react to first and foremost. If they have enough bad experiences with a person, they will decide to avoid a person if at all possible, which in my opinion, shows good judgment. But they won’t avoid a person for the reason that a human will. To quote our resident mysoginist, they won’t avoid a silly woman who has daft ideas who approaches them with openess and good intentions, and generally, even if they occasionally express some frustration with being fussed over and talked at, they generally do a super job of taking care of these women. But a braggadocious male with an agressive attitude, good luck getting close. Of course physical appearance, money, social standing, those mean diddley squat to a horse. And they can’t understand a human’s experience with other human’s so they simply don’t know and care if you were abused, never had friends, etc. It’s the here and now of how you are acting in the moment, of the emotions you are projecting that they will react to.

            So yes, I think people can find acceptance working with the right horses. And horses can teach us to control ourselves, to change how we act, and immediately see positive feedback to those changes from the horses. They easily let go of preconceived idea if the human changes how it acts.

    • http://www.crpo.ca/

      As best I can tell, there is still a lot undecided about qualifications, training, curriculum, etc. I’d say, given that the website for the Council is still soliciting qualified persons to develop the program, there is no way to say exactly what will be demanded. Stephanie mentioned her formal education degree and the school. Since I’ve never heard of the degree or the school and don’t live in Canada so there is no real reason I would have personal knowledge of the school, it would seem hard to judge the academic rigor of her training. I think she has adequately responded on the training, credentials and program as far as it is possible to describe about something new, and won’t even start issuing any certifications before next year.

      She never said if she had a business plan, or the source of her finances, who here sponsors were or for how much. Canadians have the reputation for being polite, so maybe she just isn’t rebuffing you. Where I come from, that information is generally considered personal and confidential, and mostly, just none of your business. I doubt any sane, cautious person would be dumping that kind of information on the internet.

      EAP generally doesn’t involve riding, it isn’t like physical or occupational therapy, and Stephanie pointed that out. In the descriptions of the horses, gentle and kind seemed to be a top priority. From what I’ve read of these programs the horses need basic ground manners and a good disposition, not necessarily any particular training. Two private regulatory groups exist, Stephanie mentioned one. Their recommendations in the US tend to be that two persons are involved in the sessions, one the therapist, the other the equine handler, and I like that recommendation. The therapist is able to focus on requests to the patient, responses, etc. The handler makes sure the animal and the patient stay safe.

      Questions aren’t merely questions in every case. The point of view of the questions, the phrasing, can make them accusation, interrogation, not simple and neutral requests for information.

      Again, your disdain for women who don’t knuckle under immediately is apparent in everything you say here. Your disdain for most horse owners, for reasons not based on actions, but prejudice, is clear. Most people with desire can learn about horses, it isn’t complicated mathematics. Generally, after listening to you for a while, I get the feeling you fit into a little homily I learned from a friend, twenty years of experience, may be just one year of experience repeated twenty times. The real horse people I’ve been lucky enough to meet stress that the learning never ends and they never say an unkind word about people out there trying to learn more if they can help it. And if they think women are silly, they have enough business sense to keep it to themselves, because in this brave new world, women rule the market.

      • I am in Canada. Wilfred Laurier is a genuine degree-granting institution of solid reputation. It is not a top-ranked school (11th out of 15 in its category in the most commonly-cited ranking of Canadian universities) but due to the way universities are regulated in Canada, we have neither the equivalent of the Ivy League nor the useless degree-mills of the U.S. Basically, all Canadian universities are decent, a degree from Laurier is a legitimate accomplishment. I don’t know Stephanie at all, just offering some context for those not familiar with Canadian universities.

  3. https://www.wlu.ca/page.php?grp_id=12516&p=18311
    Waterloo Lutheran Seminary
    Graduate Programs
    Spiritual Care & Psychotherapy

    Spiritual Care & Psychotherapy is a unique form of therapy which uses spiritual resources as well as psychological understanding for healing and growth. It is provided by mental health professionals with in-depth spiritual, religious and theological education.

    Graduates of the Spiritual Care & Psychotherapy programs serve throughout society in counselling centres, social agencies, hospitals, schools, churches and synagogues.
    Drawing on spiritual and religious resources, chaplains and counsellors assist persons who are struggling with depression, grief, marital and family conflict, substance abuse and other issues. They also work with those persons who are seeking something more from their lives. Listen with your heart and discover the intimate link between spirituality and emotional well-being.
    Programs in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy:
    Master of Arts in Theology: Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy –Our newly designed program for students seeking a career in counselling, spiritual care and psychotherapy.
    Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Care & Psychotherapy –Designed to equip the counsellor to function at a certified professional level, to teach and direct field study programs and research, and to provide leadership in specialized ministries.
    Diploma in Multifaith Spiritual Care and Counselling –Augments education with a specialty in mutifaith and spiritual care including hospital chaplaincy, nursing and bereavement counselling.

  4. walknut….I TOTALLY went there, no need to be polite…I lost interest in being nice or acting like an adult and resorted to name calling when I became a silly little woman, at which point all bets were off. Completely guilty as charged and not recanting my comments to a certain blogger.

    I am very passionate about this particular subject, for obvious reason to most, and the lack of empathy for a tragic outcome from someone who claims to be of a healing heart is infuriating and hypocritical to me. When one commits their life for a selfless cause, I expect the passion to be more than skin deep.

    • Blondemare,
      You’re making things up again! I never said you were a silly little woman or even that you were a silly woman.

      I said you were projecting silliness and insecurity on to me. I’d have said that to you whether you were called Blondemare of Blackstud. And truth be told your username doesn’t actually tell me whether you’re male or female. Hell you could be a 6ft cowboy that owns a nice palomino mare or someone just hiding behind a persona with an anonymous username.

      Chestnutmare said “Since I try to see the best in people, I was willing to see comments about “silly women horse owners” as being tongue-in-cheek, assuming that was coming from a woman. From a man it’s misogynistic, plain and simple.” Now again I don’t know if this is a red headed woman or a teenage boy with fancies for a chestnut horse but since when could a woman saying something be tongue in cheek but if it was a man saying precisely the same thing it would have to be hatred of women! (rhetorical question so don’t bother answering it!) What I do know is that you need to look up the words hypocrite AND misandrist.

      Neither have I said anywhere EVER that I think women are silly. Furthermore I don’t have “disdain for women”. That’s a pile of crap and merely something that some people here have got into their heads. For sure it’s not because of anything I’ve ever thought or said. There’s a few on this blog who’ve known me for a long time and know darned well that I’m a total advocate for strong opinionated women and have absolutely no problem openly damning men (and women) for sexism, misogynism, gender stereotyping and gender based prejudice.

      The context of my mentioning my gender was purely and utterly because of Mercedes question and Stephanie’s reply in relation to the proportion of men:women that do therapeutic equestrian stuff.

      I think Mercedes, Stephanie and I all well know that there does tend to be a bit of a bias and frankly I thought when Mercedes asked that it was a VERY good and interesting question.

      Stephanie said she didn’t know of any men doing it. Well she does now! (albeit the stuff I do is different to that which Stephanie is thinking of doing)

      • Sorry, you don’t get to challenge my response and then say that it was rhetorical so I can’t answer. Regarding using the phrase “silly women horse owners”. The context of how a word or phrase is used matters. Or are you one of those people who thinks it’s okay for white people to start using the n-word in casual conversation because a black comedian says it in a routine? I am a woman and I am most certainly not silly (I can only offer that I am a lawyer in a large international law practice as evidence of my non-silliness; I hope that’s enough). Therefore, if I make a comment about “silly women horse owners” , a plausible interpretation is ironic, self-deprecating humour. Coming from a man, there is no longer any element of self deprecation, so now it’s as best stereotyping, and at worst, mean-spirited and degrading.

        It is not hypocrisy or misandry (neither of which I need to look up, thank you). It is understanding that context matters, that words and phrases can take a different tone depending on the speaker. I also fully appreciate that context can be difficult on the internet and we often have only the words themselves. That’s why I am prepared to extend to anyone the most favourable interpretation of their words until there is sufficient context to prove otherwise. Which you have now added. It’s okay, you keep on being you, I just have a better understanding of how to take you now.

        • You can answer if you want. Makes no difference to me. I only said it was rhetorical because it didn’t require an answer.

          I absolutely agree with you too. The context is indeed important. So you need to look again at the context of what I said and where I said it.

          So the only place where I used the words “silly women” was actually on the Glue on Shoe thread.

          And there I very specifically said in response to seeing a PINK glue on shoe that

          “the way they’re being marketed and presented and even the colour makes me think it’s yet another thing for those silly women owners that have daft ideas.”

          Now IF you are an owner with daft ideas then please feel free to be insulted. If you’re female then you might well choose to be doubly insulted for my daring to infer or generalise that Pink generally is marketed for the female segment of the market.

          You’ve now told me a lawyer… that’s a spooky coincidence. That’s kind of what my wife did. She’s bloody meticulous when she reads things though and she tends not to project what she thinks and believes on to others. But then she worked board level in the corporate world and is tough as old boots and used to swimming with sharks.

          • The reason I call out comments like “silly women horse owners” is because I am tough enough to stick my virtual neck out on the internet when others are not (not because my sensitive soul is wounded). Your comment, in context, implies that you think there are a significant number of women for whom the opportunity for a pink accessory would outweigh the best interest of their horse. That is negative stereotyping of women. No, it does not win Most Offensive Comment Against Women on the Internet. Not even close. It simply shapes how I view you.

      • I can confirm I’ve known hoo4hearted for quite some time. Also know his wife, who is one tough, smart, equally opinionated lady.

        I can also confirm that you’re a damn fine horseman (in the real sense) and I’d not hesitate to leave one of my horses in your capable hands…and I can count those people that I’d leave a horse with and not lose a second of sleep on one hand.

        And finally I will confirm that on the rare occasion I’d like to slap you upside the head with a 2×4, but that’s nothing special as I’d like to do that to my husband of 23 years on the odd occasion as well. It’s a sign I care, because no one gets under my skin that I don’t give two cents about.

        We’ve had the whole regulation/government discussion before. It’s one of the few topics we aren’t in full agreement about, though, we aren’t that far apart. It’s a matter of degrees.

        I believe what we mostly have here is a cultural difference between parties.

        Regardless, Stephanie has answered several questions in what I’d consider an exemplary fashion and I wish her much success moving forward in her endeavor to facility horses in helping others. If I ever get back home, I’ll seriously consider stopping by and meeting her in person.

        • Hey, I gave you the thumbs up! Not a bad post for a silly woman 😉

          On the occasions I want to hit you with a 2 x 4 it’s because you’re wrong. But I know well enough from what my wife frequently tells me that when it comes to matters of disagreement my wife’s opinions always have more weight and are to be held in higher regard than mine.

          And just to drive an extra nail into my coffin a nice gender stereotyping joke:

          An old horse trainer had a wife who nagged him unmercifully. From morning till night (and sometimes later), she was always complaining about something. The only time he got any relief was when he was out long reining with his old horse. Hence he long reined a lot 😉

          One day, when he was out long reining, his wife brought him lunch in the field. He drove the old horse into the shade, sat down on a stump, and began to eat his lunch. Immediately, his wife began haranguing him again. nag, nag; it just went on and on and on and on.

          All of a sudden, the old horse lashed out with both hind feet; caught her smack in the back of the head. Killed her dead on the spot.

          At the funeral several days later, the minister noticed something rather odd.

          When a woman mourner approached the old trainer, he would listen for a minute, then smile and nod his head in agreement; but when a man mourner approached him, he would listen for a minute, look serious then shake his head in disagreement. This was so consistent, the minister decided to ask the old trainer about it.

          So after the funeral, the minister spoke to the widower, and asked him why he nodded his head and agreed with the women, but always shook his head and disagreed with all the men.

          The old farmer said: “Well, the women would come up and say something about how nice my wife looked, or how pretty her dress was, so I’d nod my head in agreement.”

          “And what about the men?” the minister asked.

          “They wanted to know if the horse was for sale.”

          • Easy to lay it on the line with an ocean and internet between us. What is that fable about the donkey in the well and the farmer trying to bury him alive a shoveful of dirt at a time? The smart ass shakes off your dirt and steps up each time you throw more. We women work that way….we shake off your dirt until we get to the top. I work in a male dominated field and have to laugh at the fragile egos, insecure, threatened few who still drag their knuckles through the dirt. It’s quite comical to watch.

  5. Now I presumed this enterprise was new and because the web site is new and Stephanie looks young and made early mention about “going to (futre tense) be a member of the College of Psychotherapy and needing to do an approved graduate program and around 1000 hours of supervised practice. She told us she’d not completed the hours required YET!
    She also talked about specific mental health and addiction issues and “healing”
    Her website also very specifically talks openly about the need to raise money by donation. She also mentioned “charitable donations” but I couldn’t see that she was a charity. She mentioned trying to get “not for profit” tax status.
    She herself also pointed out that when it comes to people describing themselves as Equine Therapists it’s “buyer beware” and do your research.
    She herself warns people to thoroughly check credentials.
    Hence I asked the questions I asked. There’s no point asking about results if Stephanie has only just got started. And she’s since confirmed my presumption that it’s “brand new”. She only got started with the venture in September, but she still hasn’t yet completed her hours of supervised practice and that won’t likely be done till June of next year.
    Hence the credentials to be checked CAN’T be “results”. It’s all brand new! So the things to be checked are around training and qualification and resources. And because this is a venture asking for donations and contributions then it’s pretty much common sense to know about that. Stephanie has told us she’s still only deciding what category to apply for when it comes to charitable status and that means she’s not yet made her application and neither has she got “not for profit”.
    So it’s right and proper that she’s asked about funding and what the money is to be used for and what funds are available and what stage she’s at with regard to getting those statuses and particularly because she’s asking people for money.
    Furthermore the enterprise uses horses as their prime resource / equipment. Call me a miserable old git if you like but I’m pretty picky and old fashioned about horse welfare and ensuring that when they’re used for a commercial enterprise that it’s by a fit and proper person who has the wit and wherewithal to do right by the horse and by the customer.
    As Stephanie pointed out herself, there’s plenty of folks doing stuff that really is very dodgey and ought to be thoroughly checked out.
    Anyone who knows anything about the horse world darn well knows about all the so called “rescues” and “therapy centres” that have a grotty collection of FUgly horses that they got really cheap and then they are using donations to fund their chosen lifestyle of hoarding horses and then when they don’t get enough given the horses suffer. There’s been numerous well publicised cases of people seriously abusing and even starving to death horses and in the name of “passion and charity”
    Where I come from, information regarding finances and tax and business plan and management structure is more or less all public information that is available after the event. But in some ways that’s irrelevant in this case. Stephanie told us she’s applying for charitable AND not for profit status. She will have to meet mandatory requirements for a management structure and to publish accounts and to evidence her financial arrangements. So if she’s sane and knows what she’s doing she’s going to be open and honest and ensure that those who are thinking about making donations and providing support are able to see that this is all above board. Once (assuming) she is a not for profit charity, that information will be on the internet. Anyone will be able to see her accounts and financial status.
    Stephanie has politely and properly answered quite a lot of the questions both Mercedes and I put to her. Clearly she “gets” that it’s incumbent on her to provide the information required to enable people to check her out.

    Hell she even advised people that they need to do that!

    • In the UK and Canada it may be different, but much of the financial information and business information given to taxing authorities is confidential in the US. Certain real property information is made available publicly so as to facilitate real estate transfers. But personal property and business accounts generally are not public as to the details of property, value, what is considered trade secret or business strategy information. So legal differences between countries play a role. And what one has to hand in to the government to operate is till different than what one would say on the internet. Perhaps a donor must be identified for tax records, but may not want their name used in advertising, and mention on a website would be advertising.

      And you weren’t evaluating Stephanie’s plans as potential consumer. You know your intentions. You can blame so many of us for being offended or put off by your tone by declaring it is all of us misreading what you are saying, but at some point, if everybody is feeling the same thing from your words, a bit of self evaluation may not be out of order.

      • If Stephanie is going for Charity and Not for Profit status then her accounts and management structure will indeed be a matter of public information, no matter if she’s in the USA, UK or Canada.

        You’re right, I wasn’t asking as a potential customer. I was asking in terms of being a provider. Stephanie is also asking for donations and so it’s right and proper that she reveals her financial status to potential donors.

        Stephanie seems to have less of a problem than you do!

        • Chestnut Mare,
          But I didn’t say just that and as you pointed out it’s important to read in context for full comprehension. So read what I said again:

          “the way they’re being marketed and presented and even the colour makes me think it’s yet another thing for those silly women owners that have daft ideas”

          And to bring it further into context the totality of what I said was:

          I wouldn’t personally damn them outright because they will have a place in the market and will be entirely suitable and appropriate for some horses and for some owners. If by chance the horses that might benefit are owned by the owners that recognise that then all the better!

          However the way they’re being marketed and presented and even the colour makes me think it’s yet another thing for those silly women owners that have daft ideas.

          That sort who think barefoot is best or who frankly don’t want to pay a farrier for decent hoofcare.
          No way on this planet is that saying there’s a significant number of women would buy them JUST because they were pink!

          If I’d meant that and wanted to say that then I’d have said “They’re pink so silly women will just buy them no matter what they’re like”. But I didn’t say that because that isn’t what I was thinking and it’s not what I meant.

          And you’re a lawyer! All I can say is that your ability of read, comprehend and form conclusion and leap to judgement really shapes how I judge you.

        • In the US a federal level reporting form is required of charities (and only recently that law only required a form to be filed above $25,000 in donations received). It is not comprehensive to the degree of what you were asking for. Here is an actual 990 I picked at random

          http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/231/231352017/231352017_200206_990.pdf

          Very little of what you were demanding is on that form. Aggregated data, no individual donor names, etc. The information is not made public unless the charity wishes to do so. I work with public entities that grant local property tax exemptions, it is pulling teeth to get financial information beyond this out of the organizations, generally we only receive it after going to court and have the rules of discovery in effect.

          I can’t speak to Canadian law.

          Stephanie has been generous and yet at the time you complained she still had more questions to answer as if she was being evasive. If you were a potential donor, then you could have identified yourself as such, so that your questions could be taken in context. If you feel that your intentions were private, that you didn’t have to explain yourself, then welcome to my world, where yes, it was private and you shouldn’t have been conducting your business on an internet site.

          Stephanie’s blog wasn’t written as one big solicitation, but to inform us about EAP, spurred in part by other discussions at this site. If all she had posted was, I run a therapy center, consider giving me money, then I might well have commented that was in bad taste.

          • I didn’t complain and I didn’t demand. That’s in your imagination.

            And as I said Stephanie was less concerned than you seem to be and likely because she’s aware that being honest and open is pretty darned important.

            I don’t know what your problem is and frankly i’m not interested either.

          • You made two statements about her failure to answer all the questions, but you also were less than helpful as a person truly interested in answers might have been by repeating or directing her attention to what you felt she hadn’t adequately addressed. Even Mercedes told you she felt Stephanie had fairly answered the questions in her various responses and you came back with there were a few outstanding.

            Again, when I pasted in a factual response as to what US law requires of a charity and it didn’t match your assertions, you accuse me of having a problem. You can’t admit that you’ve overstated positions to the point of inaccuracy. You can’t admit that several people found your attitude overbearing. When you don’t get the answer you want even if what you want isn’t what is realistic or what is happening, it is the fault of everyone else here. You’ve done an excellent job of throwing out accusations about other people. Again, I think you need more time with your mirror. And unlike a lot of other people, I am persistant as hell. Ask Mercedes.

  6. Thanks for your two cents everyone! Horse people are an interesting and opinionated lot 😉
    I am indeed quite unbothered :). I attempt to be as up front as I can but I am first and foremost a therapist, secondly an entrepreneur and agency founder. I also feel that if I am successful in achieving charitable status (which is a long term goal, as the process is challenging and time consuming in Canada) and my accounts become a matter of public record then they will be public, until then they are not. I am happy to give details to potential consumers or donors, but not so much to a public message board ;).

    I greatly appreciate everyone who has shared their personal experiences with the healing nature of the horse. If anyone is interested in telling such a story on my blog I would be happy to have you guest post. Those stories are the reason I have started up an agency in which I can put horses and therapy together, and I love hearing them 🙂

  7. I have absolutely no doubt that horses do a power of good.

    Having done therapeutic riding and carriage driving for people with disability for a long time I’m mindful of that and I’ve had some VERY humbling and touching experiences seeing what happens there.

    I also know that it can actually be good for horses.

    About 8 years ago I took in a horse that had a troubled past and who had a mass of problems and including be absolutely terrified of anything and everything and that included ALL people.

    I put him in the first stable as you enter the yard. And in the small paddock that’s immediately in front of my holiday cottage and right outside the door of that and just 20 yards from the house and at the entrance to the drive.

    He spent the first month when he was stabled with his head in the corner and his backside facing you way in the distance. When he was in the paddock, he spent most of the time trying to get to the furthest point away from people.

    I encouraged anyone and everyone to go and stand at his door and just to stand there with their back to the open door top so they weren’t looking at him. I even removed a plank out of the front of the stable because he started to “hide” at the side of the door and also so that little children could peep in at him and stand there and see him and touch him. Over time, and it was a considerable time, he came to know me and my staff and would be o.k. with them and then eventually with customers and visitors so long as they were quiet and made no sudden movements and they weren’t children! I continued to encourage all and everyone to see him and pat him and talk to him and he gradually became more trusting as he came to appreciate that no one was going to do him any harm.

    There was slow progress and then I had a significant breakthrough with him. I had an open day at the stables for National Disability and Learning Difficulties week. I had hundreds of visitors scheduled for the day and so a lot of activity and many of the visitors were profoundly disabled. My Yard Manager asked what we’d do with this horse and asked if she should move him to a quieter place. I decided not to and to leave him where he was with the proviso that if he found it all too much that we’d move him then.

    As the first people arrived it turned out that rather than phased as we’d been told, it was en masse! And basically the horse shot back, turned round and put his head in the corner. Clearly it was all a little much and he was doing what he’d done when he first came in the year before.

    But I wasn’t going to make a big issue of it and I just left things as they were and a couple of my staff herded the majority of the people on and past his stable. Then a profoundly disabled lady with her carer stopped at his stable and was peeping through where I’d removed the plank the year before for children to see him. The lady had no speach and she just sat there in her wheelchair and after about 20 minutes the horse came over to see her and sniffed her through the opening and then hung his head right over to see her. She sat there with his head on her shoulder for a good half hour.

    This horse had NEVER done that with anyone before and I’m convinced that he recognised that she could not be a threat.

    After that the horse was literally transformed, he was standing at the front waiting to see everyone. It was a long day for the horses with so much attention and they were turned out that evening as usual. The next morning was the first day I’d seen the horse lying down in the field with the others. He was totally relaxed and chilled out and from that day, he’s been a different horse. I call him my barometer horse. If he gets nervous round someone then I know he’s right and they’ve likely no right to be trusted!

    Having said that horses can be good for people I also sadly know that people aren’t necessary good for horses.

    The increase in horse ownership has been commensurate with the decline in horse knowledge and the increase in cruelty and neglect cases.

    Horses are an expensive luxury lifestyle choice. They require a lot of time and attention and available money if you are to do them justice. IMO owning a horse is a privilege and not a right and already too many own them that don’t have the wit and wherewithal.

    So for me when I got “released” from hospital after a 5 month stay the first thing I got my wife to do was to drive me to my stud farm to go see my horses and just to cuddle in to a horse’s neck. My gosh I’d missed that. It left a huge hole in my heart and life.

    But for others I know that owning a horse when they’re ill is just a nightmare and a worry unless you have good support and folks who can step in.

    You don’t need to own an animal to appreciate the benefits though. Much better you can pay someone or make arrangements via social services and associated charities to let you have a “fix” of horse . We also have golden retriever dogs and they’re registered PAT (Pets as Therapy) dogs and visit children at a local hospice.

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