Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Equine Therapy Helps Patients to Ride Tall

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Equine Therapy Helps Patients to Ride Tall

Article excerpt

Byline: VIRGINIA J. PILLSBURY

A lifelong love of horses coupled with a desire to counsel clients outdoors led mental health professional StarrLee Heady to the growing field of equine assisted psychotherapy, or EAP.

She owns and operates PX Equine Enterprises Inc., located on County Road 209, south of Green Cove Springs. There Heady, along with equine specialist Chandra Gribble and their 10 horses, work with both individuals and groups.

According to the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, or EAGALA, of which both Heady and Gribble are certified members, "EAP incorporates horses experientially for emotional growth and learning. It is a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional working with the clients and horses to address treatment goals."

At PX Equine, Heady and Gribble observe and gain insight into behavior as clients participate in activities or follow directions with a horse or horses. Clients learn about themselves as a result of the interactions as well as from the horses' responses to them. Heady and Gribble offer observations and raise questions.

"We let the client make the meaning out of the experience," they said. Gribble also keeps close tabs on the body language of the horses to keep everyone involved safe.

Why use horses? The horses aren't trained for these interactions, but horses are hypersensitive to their surroundings and those around them, explained Heady. "They behave differently with different clients," she said.

"The horses amaze us," added Gribble. "They shift their behavior based on the people they are with." If a client comes in an altered state due to drugs or alcohol, the horses will sense that and stay away from the client.

Equine therapy works well with teenagers in group homes. "They often come to a therapy setting with so many labels," said Gribble. …

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