Treatment Method Profile: Equine Assisted Therapy
A Healing Place – The Estates has developed a one of a kind treatment program to help those suffering with chronic pain, addictive behaviors, and psychological conditions. This includes a variety of treatment methods to help identify, process, and heal the co-occurring underlying conditions that fuel pain and suffering symptoms. We are excited to offer Equine Assisted Therapy and proud to highlight our Equine Specialist, Corey Cardenas, with her two full-size and two mini horses.
When did horses become a part of your life personally, and then professionally?
Corey: I have been horse crazy for as long as I can remember; riding horses since I was 3 years old. The only time I wasn’t around horses was when I lived in India! In 2011, I was introduced to Equine Assisted Therapy by our own John Stenzel and have been serving my community in this way ever since.
You have two full size horses and two minis, what are their names and how would you describe their personalities?
Corey: I have had my my two big horses since they were skinny, long-legged babies; they are now almost 17 years old. Gracie is our fearless leader, straightforward and very clear in her communication. She is half Clydesdale and half Thoroughbred. Koa, a pinto Dutch Warmblood, is sensitive and more of a romantic. When he trusts he connects deeply. The two minis, also coming up on 17 years old, are big in personality. Magic is curious and has no problem pushing your boundaries. Sassy, who is sweet and kind, beats to her own drum and tends to do what she pleases.
How would you describe the type of equine therapy that you specialize in?
Corey: The equine therapy we practice at A Healing Place – The Estates is an experiential modality. We learn best by doing, and while we can talk up ourselves in many different directions, our actions tend to describe us best. When we bring horses into this picture, they are so naturally wonderful at reading body language and our state of being that they become our greatest mirror. Horses never lie. In our Equine Assisted Therapy, we set up activities with the horses on the ground to help Patients recognize their situation, make connections and find their own solutions.
Our patients see you every week for six weeks during our primary residential program. What does a typical session look like?
Corey: A typical session varies from week-to-week in our focus. We do activities to help bring the group together, to support them to look more clearly at their current situations and how they can shift their lives in a new direction. It’s always interesting to see how the horses respond differently to the group each week according to what the group is going through. We are always looking for metaphors and patterns that tie in deeply with the clients and their lives.
How can working with horses be therapeutic for an individual suffering with chronic pain?
Corey: Horses live very much in the present moment and have an enormous affect on us when we spend time with them. I have seen Patients get very present and drop into their bodies during these sessions; they tend to feel calmer and become more receptive. In the bigger picture, these sessions really help Patients get clearer on how they personally influence their own suffering.
How can equine therapy help someone struggling with psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, trauma, or PTSD?
Corey: Again, horses help us get very present. Our psychological conditions, such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, are accentuated by our own thoughts and actions. By getting present and exploring with horses, we naturally feel better and find clarity in these activities. Horses are naturally amazing healers because they are independent and wonderful mirrors for us. Patients learn how to shift their state of mind in order to gain the horses’ trust and connection.
In what ways can equine therapy help someone who is struggling with addictive behaviors or an addictive disorder?
Corey: Addiction is tied up with our personal trauma, our learned coping mechanisms, and the balance we keep in our lives. Equine Assisted Therapy helps Patients explore each of these aspects. We often use props in our activities, because as the Patients put a personal meaning into that prop, they evoke the emotions around it and the horse is able to respond directly to those emotions. We then help Patients to read the horses and explore what they are responding to in the Patient’s behavior. Churchill once said, “There’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” It is so true that when looking eye-to-eye with a horse, you feel they are looking into your soul.
Do any of your horses have special talents?
Corey: The minis are good at general mayhem and getting into any trouble they can. Both Gracie and Koa are wonderful riding horses. They love butt scratches (where they can’t reach) and Koa gives a good massage with his lips!
What do your horses like to do on their days off?
Corey: Stand together in the shade of a tree and watch the world go by. Oh, and eat apples!