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A Horsewoman’s Network!

A Horsewoman’s Network!

By Betsy Kelleher

     The actual publishing of a book is only the beginning of its journey. I have witnessed an interesting chain of events regarding my latest book, “MARES! (ya gotta love em),” and I gotta share it! But first, some background and information!

     Betsy McGee Rice of Ohio, is actively involved with equine assisted learning (something that extends much further than therapeutic riding facilities). I had “met” her online while doing genealogy research. After discovering she was a horse person, I invited her to contribute a story for the MARE book. Her bio is quite impressive. Betsy owns “In His Hands Stables” where she trains and instructs horses and riders. Also, she is an EAGALA and OK Corral certified horse specialist, helping people learn about themselves and others through the eyes of the horse. To explain that, we need to learn more about this rather new field of “equine assisted learning.”

     EAGALA, or the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, was founded in 1999 by Lynn Thomas and Greg Kersten as a non-profit organization promoting the field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). Greg Kersten also does the OK Corral certification. EAGALA aims to get professionals in the clinical and human development fields to accept and use EAP as a valid and effective approach with their clientele. EAGALA provides education, standards, innovation, and support to EAP professionals, opening up great possibilities for those working with horses and providing those in the clinical and human development fields a powerful and effective therapeutic alternative that works!

     If you are interested in more information, do a search for EAGALA on the internet. All this information about EAGALA and EAP was condensed from their website.

     EAP requires a licensed therapist and a horse professional working together with the clients and horses. Participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then discussing feelings, behaviors, and patterns. The focus of EAP is not horsemanship, but involves setting up ground activities involving horses which require the client or group to apply certain skills, including non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem-solving, leadership, work, taking responsibility, teamwork and relationships, confidence, and attitude. EAP addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs including behavioral issues, attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, abuse issues, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs.

     Wow. We all knew horses were good for people, didn’t we? Now that we’ve learned something about the field itself, let’s go back to my original “story.”

     Betsy McGee Rice (Ohio) posted information about the MARE book on the forum for the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association (EFMHA). A gal named Constance (Connie) Funk of Washington saw the post and ordered both my books! Connie has written a book of her own, by the way, which made its “debut” in July at the Celebrate the Horse event in Payallup, Washington! The title of her new book is “Beauty from Brokenness: Bits & Pieces of my Journey into Wholeness.” It’s a story that involves her first horse, just as my first book did (Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse), and how her fears of that horse turned around to bring physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healing. I have ordered Connie’s book and look forward to reading her story. It just so happens that after she ordered my books, she received them a day before travelling to Canada to visit Liz Mitten Ryan, author of “One with the Herd; A Spiritual Journey.” Liz has 13 mares, I understand. And Connie told Liz about my books.

     Also because of Betsy Rice’s original post, I received an email from Carol Upton, book reviewer for Horses All magazine in Canada. She reviewed Connie Funk’s book and is public relations manager for Liz Mitten Ryan. Consequently, Carol Upton gave the MARES book a nice review in the August issue of Horses All. And now she will give her copy of my book to Liz Mitten Ryan. I’ve already got my copy of Liz’s book and it is a very unusual and fascinating story of her life with horses! 

     It is exciting to me that one simple website post by Betsy McGee Rice in Ohio has been like a stone thrown into the water, spreading ripples all the way to Canada and Washington! Something has come from this book that I never imagined—the communication between women who love horses (and mares)--women from all over the country who are writing about their experiences! Every horse owner has a story and many are sharing those stories, and those of us who read them are learning new things!

     There is another story in the MARE book by Marita Wassman, of Ride on St. Louis (ROSL), an equine assisted therapy (EAT) center. Marita is a certified therapeutic instructor with the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA). Also known as hippotherapy (from hippo which is Greek for horse), EAT provides riders with a positive emotional experience using a horse and a licensed therapist giving personal attention to the rider. Because the horse's gait produces a motion similar to human ambulation, hippotherapy strengthens and supports the spine and pelvis, and supplies neurological input to the brain. Riders with physical disabilities often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength while riders with mental or emotional disabilities often experience increased confidence, patience and self-esteem as a result of the unique bond formed with the horse. Riders experience a sense of freedom and a renewed sense of possibility that often spills over into other aspects of their lives (information from the ROSL website).

     This supports my claim that sometimes God uses horses! These animals enrich our lives in so many different ways beyond just riding. We owe them the care and consideration that God had in mind when he created them and told mankind to take care of His creatures. Of course attitudes toward horses vary, and sometimes women tend to carry it further than others. But we know, don’t we ladies—how much these beautiful creatures give us--and we can’t help but want to take good care of them!   

     When a relationship between horse and human is really good, you can tell that a horse knows he or she belongs to you. There is a special bond and a mutual dependence. My TWH mare, Lady, shows her feelings quite clearly. She may be a bit demanding, but she gives as much as she demands. And Traveller has become more responsive over the past few years.

     In a similar way, I know in my heart that I belong to God. Jesus bought and paid for me with his death on the cross. I have felt His guidance and strength when I needed it. I’m not always what He wants me to be, just as our horses aren’t always what we want them to be. But the knowing is there, the security of knowing He cares for His people with unconditional love. We learn to believe it by faith, even when the feelings aren’t there.

     There is a matter of priorities, however, and Psalms 20:7 warns us: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Our love for our horses is not meant to take first place in our lives; that place is reserved for God.     

(Originally published in the September 2008 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)

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