A business in Morganton is helping people gain insight and learn more about their inner selves with the help of horses.
Successful Strides is a business that focuses on equine-assisted learning and equine-assisted psychotherapy.
Elizabeth Allen, an equine specialist and educator with Successful Strides, started the journey two years ago with just an idea.
The parallels between working in education and working with horses kept showing up in her everyday life and she knew she had to take action.
“It all was pointing to this path,” she said.
Allen is an educator by profession and created Successful Strides as a way to help kids with reading. She wanted to do something that connected her passion for teaching and working with kids and helping them.
The business defines equine-assisted learning as education and learning specific skills customized by the individual or group, such as improved confidence, academic growth, communication and leadership skills. Equine-assisted psychotherapy is when a mental health therapist teams with an equine specialist and horses to provide a solution-oriented therapy session, focused on client goals, according to information from SS.
Participants in the program are able to learn more about themselves and others, according to the information. When they engage with the horses they are able to process their feelings and behaviors during the session or afterward, the information said.
Allen said there is something positive that comes from each session.
“(The sessions with the horses) has so much power and benefit to people’s personal lives … with their personal growth and emotional growth,” Allen said.
Jill Van Horne, program director of Professional School Counseling at Appalachian State University, works with Allen in the program and says the work of Successful Strides is effective with diverse populations and in multi-cultural perspectives.
The atmosphere of working with the non-judgmental characteristics of a horse allows the focus to be taken off of how clients doubt themselves and the results of the therapy session, Van Horne said.
“That is one of the great things about being with horses as a partner because there is no judgment,” Allen said. “They don’t know anything about your history. They don’t know how rich you are or what kind of car you drive or what your family life is like.”
The horses respond to how you are treating them and they feel the intention, Allen said.
“To partner with this horse, this prey animal with a fight-or-flight response, that builds confidence and empowers people just being in that space with a miniature or full-sized horse,” Allen said.
The knowledge and skills that are used in the session can be applied to the client’s personal and work life, their relationships and their struggles, Van Horne said.
The horses help create metaphors that connect the clients with positive or negative things that have happened in their lives, Allen said.
“It is more about learning ways to problem-solve and having problem-solving skills than focusing on (your) problems or roadblocks,” Van Horne said.
Some of the characteristics they believe are gained through these programs are motivation, confidence, self-evaluation and self-efficacy.
The business offers several different programs including general horsemanship, Tutoring with a Twist, Horse Powered Reading, Y.E.S. or Youth (plus) Empowerment (equals) Success and equine-assisted learning activities for groups and individuals, the information said.
For more information about Successful Strides, visit www.successfulstridesinc.com or their Facebook Page “Successful Strides Learning with Horses.”
Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at [email protected] or 828-432-8907.