MONTROSE – There’s a new kind of healer in town to help with serious problems as well as personal growth, but it’s not human. It’s a horse.
Stanlee Smith and Kay Alexander are starting a local program, Horses Helping People, that is similar in some ways to hippotherapy, which uses horseback riding to help disabled or abused kids.
Alexander, a licensed psychotherapist, said that Horses Helping People is instead called equine assisted learning, and doesn’t involve riding the horse, but rather involves interacting with it to reach goals and solve problems.
“The workshops Stanlee and I will be doing this year are geared more toward personal growth and education, more equine-assisted learning and education,” she said.
Smith and Alexander will explain their new program at a free open house Saturday, April 30,10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Welcome Home Ranch, 16161 6100 Road.
Horses Helping People will offer seven workshops of varying lengths in the near future, from one to four days. General information is offered at the website www.horseshelpingpeople.net, or by contacting Smith at 970/252-0460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workshops set for this summer include “Beginning Way of the Horse” on May 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., an introduction to equine-guided education and healing, and costs $95. The next workshop, to be held June 17-18, is titled “The Energy of Money” and teaches how to improve your relationship with money. The cost is $325.
For two days on Aug. 6-7, Horses Helping People will offer “Moving Through Loss” for those who need to move through the grief process at any level, at a cost of $265. “Way of the Medicine Horse” will be offered Aug. 20-21 for $265, where participants learn paths to deeper health, peace and wellbeing.
Two workshops will be offered in September, “From the Horse’s Mouth,” on Sept. 2-4, where students learn to develop their intuition and animal communication, for $290. The final workshop, “Way of the Horse Retreat,” will be held for four days, from Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
Horses have a special way of interacting with humans, Alexander said.
“Horses are real sensitive creatures and they mirror our behavior,” she said. “They are not judgmental and are no threat, yet because of their size they command our respect.”
Because they command our respect, we have to interact with them, and that’s where the healing comes in, she said.
Using horses in therapy is a new but growing field in mental health, Alexander said. She went through the training in 2004, she said, after working in mental health for “umpteen years” as a licensed therapist.
“I couldn’t believe it…seeing how the horses could facilitate or get in touch with what was going on inside and help them gain confidence, even though they’re not riding,” she said.
It’s the horse’s special sensitivity that makes Smith angry about traditional training methods using whips and force, which she pronounced unnecessary.
“The horse is always waiting for our agenda, even in traditional training methods where the horse is just used up,” she said.
“The real joy is seeing them work with people. They’re totally different when you get them with that agenda.”
Smith has been a horse trainer for years, as she has also worked in the homeopathic healing arts. Since horses are prey animals, they have special sensibilities that people can’t help but respond to, she said.
“In the presence of horses, stuff that people have buried for a long time seems to come to the surface willingly, and what is supposed to happen, happens,” she said. “I am always in awe of how people transform.”