Horses Joining Forces is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that uses Equine Assisted Coaching (EAC) to improve the quality of life for veterans, active duty military and anyone else experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD/PTS) or other emotional issues.
Working with horses is a unique and effective form of therapy because they are prey animals by nature and are always on guard. As a result, they are extremely sensitive to nonverbal cues of a person’s emotional state and are adept at reading body language. This makes them gifted at sensing incongruence. You can’t pretend or hide your true feelings/fears from them because are able to tap into emotions that may be hidden.
This program successfully offers immediate relief from severe symptoms of emotional trauma and is an ideal “first step” in the healing process for Veterans who are not yet ready for traditional talk therapy. It can also serve as a highly effective adjunct to clinical therapy.
Horses Joining Forces Equine Assisted Coaching (EAC)
6 week Veteran ProgramWe welcome any Veteran suffering from an emotional issue to come out to our Ranch and participate in our 6 week program. EAC is a non-traditional therapeutic approach for both individuals and families addressing a number of emotional & mental health issues;
- Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)
- Anger /Behavior problems
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship problem
- Isolation/ interpersonal skills
Our EAC program involves equine assisted activities set up and facilitated by a certified Veteran Coach who is also a certified PATH instructor. These are performed on the ground (minimal riding) and includes activities such as;
- Round pen activities
- Desensitization activities
- Riding (to enhance trust/bonding and receive physical benefits)
- Feeding & Cleaning
Some of the benefits of EAC are:
- Confidence/Increase Self-Esteem
- Impulse Control
- Peace and Joy
- Body/Self awareness
- Communication Skills
- Decrease Anxiety
- Social Skills/ Decrease Isolation
- Assertiveness/Anger Management
In 2009 she launched a business, Divine Equine, to use the powerful connection between horses and humans to help in healing the body, mind and soul. Shortly after, she began working with combat Veterans with PTS and was amazed by the growth and healing that the horses provided and how receptive the veterans were to this type of non-traditional therapy. Michelle helped start a 501(c)3, Horses Joining Forces, to expand her work with Veterans and their families. In order to have a better understanding of Veterans and the issues they face, she became a Certified Veteran Development Coach (CVDC) through Hawk Eye. Becoming a Hawk Eye coach has given Michelle a whole new perspective in working with others and equipped her to develop a successful six week equine assisted coaching (EAC) program for Veterans. Michelle has a B.S. degree in criminal justice and an A.S in administration of justice. She’s a certified PATH therapeutic riding instructor at Reins, has a loving husband, a dog, 2 cats and 2 therapy horses.
A U.S. Army study conducted in June 2010, showed the prevalence of PTS and depression in soldiers may be as high as 30%. A Navy captain who went through an equine assisted program called “Operation Saddle Up” said, “I thought I had lost my humanity. This horse program allowed me to regain my faith in people”. He said that the environment of being outdoors was very healing, peaceful, beautiful and relaxing so people are calmed down by just being there.
EAC is particularly effective with veterans and other victims of trauma who tend to avoid “talk therapy” because their memories are so painful. Also, many vets with PTS do not want to admit they have a problem because the fear of being stigmatized by mental illness and career related repercussions. They often refuse the armed services typical offer of a series of individual counseling sessions. This is where EAC can be helpful.
Equine assisted therapy is a very intense and powerful tool used for client’s who experience blockages, which is common with individuals with PTS. A horse’s survival depends on being sensitive to smell, sound and movement, which are all triggers for people with PTSD. This is an experiential type of therapy where change happens so much faster than traditional talk therapy, and it’s lasting. One Veteran said, “It gets at the soul and the spirit of the individual, it did for me!”