And they were in Farmington this week to talk about how horses could help.
It was the 12th annual conference of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), and co-founder Lynn Thomas, of Santaquin, was thrilled with both the interest and the attendance.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “I didn’t realize how fast it would grow. I knew it was good as a therapist, but I didn’t realize how many other people would be interested. It does work. It does help,” she said.
Thomas is a licensed clinical social worker who helped established a certification program for those who work with horses to help people.
It was founded to address the need for resources, education and professionalism in the fields of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), which utilize experiential, ground-based activities to help clients with specific needs.
In their system, both a mental health professional and a horse trainer participate, with the third contributor being the horse.
“It is fabulous. It absolutely changes lives,” said Mark Casagrande, who owns a drug and alcohol treatment center in Minnesota.
He said EAGALA has taken an industry that was quite diverse and brought a level of professionalism with a set of standards and certifications.
His clients can’t hide when they’re working with horses, he said. “It’s the most efficient way of doing therapy,” because while clients might hide things from counselors, they can’t from horses.
“It’s like having six counseling sessions crammed into one – there is so much information learned in one session.”
Sharon Boyce and Dot Robertson work with families in South Africa. “It makes a significant difference with a lot of the people we work with,” said Boyce.
“Horses have a remarkable ability to mirror what is happening for people,” said Robertson. “What happens in the arena is representative of what happens in life,” opening avenues of understanding for families, “to work on the problems and solutions to the difficulties they face.”
Vicki Reece, who’d also traveled from Minnesota, utilizes the program in her work with organizations.
She said that while there have been many effective organizational development programs such as ropes courses and tinker toy activities that are wonderfully effective methods with teams, “I never have experienced anything as lasting as this is.” She said team dynamics “absolutely reveal themselves in the arena every single time,” and help with personal and professional development and problem solving. “It’s amazing what comes out of it,” she said.
The EAGALA conference was held at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington, with other classes at the Davis Conference Center in Layton. Others who attended were from California, Massachusetts, Mexico, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
More information on the organization and its work is available at www.eagala.org.