Horse Sense for Humans
Experiential Learning with Horses
Equine Therapy

horse

The Equus Effect is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help veterans and others in transition rebuild healthy relationships through exercises and activities based on principles of natural horsemanship.

"There's something about the outside of a horse that's good for the inside of a man."
- Sir Winston Churchill

There are three ways you can get involved:
  1. If you're a veteran, contact us
  2. If there's a veteran in your life who's struggling with relationships at home, work or school, please let him or her know about us mail to link
  3. If you'd like to support our work

Who We Are


Jane Strong

Jane Strong
Program Director

Jane is a certified Experiential Learning with Horses Instructor. She graduated from the Eponaquest Program in Tucson, AZ in 2005. She is also a professional coach and facilitator who has taught leaders and individuals how to 'take back the reins' in their own lives. She's coached young people and adults through transitions from home to school, recovery to sobriety and changes in their careers. Jane has now turned her energy and attention to working with veterans and their loved ones who are making these significant transitions.

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David Sonatore

David Sonatore
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

David is a certified Experiential Learning with Horses Instructor. He also graduated from the Eponaquest Program in Tucson, AZ in 2005. He brings his inherent gifts of compassion, curiosity and intuition to this work and has an uncanny sense of identifying the human concerns that lie beneath the surface. In his unique, gentle way, David is able to help veterans and others we work with learn how to make sense out of feelings and discover new ways of seeing through old patterns so that they can move from surviving to thriving.

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Tracie Shannon

Tracie Shannon
Reiki Master

Tracie is a Reiki Master and Instructor who also does equine massage. She provides a deep understanding of horses and human nature that is both enlightening and useful to our veterans. Her role with us is to keep our horses emotionally and mentally safe as well as to provide insights into the veterans' experience that most of us don't see.

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Ali Brederhorst

Ali Brederhorst
R.N.

Ali is our resident 'nurse' who has been with us since we began. She is first and foremost a horse-lover, a compassionate human being and has the kind of optimism we all need to keep going when the going seems hard.

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Veteran Liaisons




Tim McCall

Tim McCall
Corporal, USMC

Christina Walls

Christina Walls
Army Specialist - E-4 US Army

Steven Troop

Steven Troop
E-4 US Army

Offerings

The Home Stretch

The Home Stretch

for veterans only

Confidential, peer-to-peer program for veterans who wish to rebuild healthy relationships at home, work and school through the principles of Natural Horsemanship. These principles…also called 'horse whispering' involve learning the silent, but expressive language of the horse called 'equus.' Working in this respectful way with horses teaches students how to:

  • Build emotional and mental resilience
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Experience for themselves… that true power is finesse not force

We build competence, confidence and patience. We teach vets more than skills. We teach vets how to BE better…not just DO better…in life.



Warriors in Transition

Warriors in Transition

for veterans and their loved ones

Confidential program for veterans and their loved ones who want to focus on the more personal aspects of relationships at home. This program, based on one recognized by General Patraeus for veterans and their loved ones, helps accelerate the transition from military to civilian life for all members of the family. Just like the 'round table', the Round Pen is a place where everyone can be seen and heard. We and our equine coaches can show you how to ask for space, rebuild trust, set healthy boundaries and communicate in a way that works. Our horse partners can also help show you how to lead without force, relax without losing awareness and have some fun!



Transitions as Thresholds

Transitions as Thresholds

for individuals and groups in times of change

One-on-one coaching and group programs for individuals in times of transition who would like to find a better ways to navigate the waters of change.

If you are heading for college, recovering from (a) physical, emotional or spiritual dis-ease, moving from more to less - or less to more responsibility in your life, our horses can help build your capacity to meet those demands. We offer practical solutions, challenge you to face your fears and enhance your emotional fitness skills. Resilience and resourcefulness are required for change. Horses model both and teach us how to find those qualities in ourselves.

Veteran Mentor Program

Veteran Mentor Program

for veterans and/or their partners

For veterans who have been through four sessions and earned a certificate of completion in Natural Horsemanship I are eligible to become Veteran Mentors for other vets and their families who wish to participate. This peer-to-peer support is invaluable to those first attending the coaching program and the active role as Veteran Mentor gives true meaning to the concept of trust-based leadership.

Why Horses?

because …how they feel is what they do




HORSES have three qualities that make them naturals at guiding people toward more effectiveness in the world

The Wisdom of The Prey

Their existence for 55 million-years has depended upon their ability to sense the heart rate, muscle tension and breathing of others from 30 feet away.

The Lack of Hidden Agendas

How they feel is exactly how they act. They don't talk so they don't lie. They also tell us EXACTLY how they feel about what we do by how they behave toward us. They're big biofeedback machines!

Horses don't care where you live or where you come from, they care about how you are with them right now. They teach presence, honesty and cooperation.

Transparent Trust

Horses are very clear about trust. Their nature as prey animals is to question the intentions of everyone and everything around them. So, when they trust you, they mean it and what that means is you're trustworthy.

There is nothing more heartwarming or empowering than to gain the trust of an animal who's both very selective and totally honest about who he chooses to follow… especially when he has a choice.



Frequently Asked Questions

Q
What kinds of exercises do we do?
A
Simple, easy exercises in hand, on the ground. We lead, we groom, we walk and talk, we spend time "grazing" with the herd. We navigate obstacle courses together and learn to lead from a place of cooperation — not control or dominance. No prior horse experience necessary.
Q
How do I "take" this work into my life once I leave?
A
Since we believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything, the connection to your own life becomes obvious pretty quickly. You'll see that managing others through cooperation is much different than getting what you want through coercion. Setting healthy boundaries with your child or spouse by recognizing in your body when a line has been crossed — and learning how to reclaim your space without getting mad is much easier to learn with a horse than with a person… particularly that person. Knowing what you feel and being honest about it — if only to yourself and the horse beside you — is a magical moment of positive change for most adults. It's the way back to your own inherent wisdom and the gateway to the life you are meant to live. Working with horses often changes your view of yourself and your relationship to the world. It expands your capacity to respond rather than to react — on the inside and on the outside.
Q
How does this work help with relationships?
A
Because we work on non-verbal communication skills, patience, tolerance and setting healthy boundaries in real time…right now. Since horses are sensitive to our presence and very clear about their own, we have a chance to negotiate the same types of things we have to learn to succeed in human-to-human interactions. When we take out words, we're able to focus more on energy and intention which we believe, is the foundation for all healthy relationships.
Q
How long do the effects last?
A
As soon as you start to practice the principles we teach in your relationships at home, things begin to move. When we change what we put out there, what comes back to us changes as well. We create feedback loops that become healthier and more productive…and so it goes.
Q
Is there research to back this work up?
A
As researchers ourselves, we understand that healthy relationships are based on the release of oxytocin — caring, concern and compassion. When we care for a horse, we create a loop of that particular hormone. Horses also have a very strong HRV. When we're near them, we tap into their heart rate variability and pick it up through our bodies. They also live in the present and because they're bigger than us, we begin to learn what that feels like...as opposed to living in stories and memories. The 'learning' part of what we do teaches clients how to call upon that sense of well being when we engage with others.

Horses also model self-regulation and teach us how access that in ourselves for better sleep, more resilience, mental clarity and most important…tools for life.

Testimonials

I had no idea how gaining the trust of this big animal would give me faith in myself.
-BW (Viet Nam Veteran)
In just one day, I've learned more about being a good parent than I could have ever imagined.
-CJ (Y-Haven Treatment Center Client)
There's another way to lead besides power and rank. It's called relationship.
-MW (Female Veteran from Iraq)
The following is a full report from a recent Warriors in Transition workshop:
A horsewoman and VA employee:

I enjoyed the Saturday session and believe the program to be worthwhile. In my studies of natural horsemanship, the focus is on the horse. However, with this program, it's all about the humans.
I would require an EPONA Certified Educator to be present along with a therapist whenever the workshop was presented to Veterans.

Veteran of Gulf War, Kosovo and former Drug Court Supervisor for Citrus County, FL. Current Pershing VA employee:
I came out there for anything that's helpful. I want to help those coming behind me. This could grow into something really good. We've got lots of guys coming back; lots of enlistments running out. Dollar and cents: it will pay off on the other side; incarcerate them or help them function on the outside.
Coming back from the Gulf War, I got no response. Nothing. Culture shock. I was ashamed when I went to drill with the National Guard.
Returning from Kosovo, was a completely different experience; the Yellow Ribbon ceremony was required. There was help for LOD injury. [But] we couldn't wait to get away from briefings; we were over briefed; finance and romance we called it. Now I can reach out for help but when I first came back, the last place I wanted to be was a VA hospital.

At least PTSD is recognized as a treatable condition.
I had extreme anger, lots of pressure, and no answers.
I was going to drink myself to death or shoot myself because I couldn't make it stop.
I volunteered for Afghanistan but DUIs would not allow me to re-enlist. I was sober for 14 years; 15 years this month. I didn't realize how big the problem was. Sobriety didn't cure it. I had no background with PTSD; didn't know about triggers. In 1997, I had a crisis; had no idea it was a condition from the '92 Gulf War. Me and three other guys were attacked and stabbed in Germany by Muslim-looking guys. I almost died. I recently started PTSD treatment.

Horses got me to look inside of myself and headed in the right direction. I've had a lot of experience with this crap and it really helped take me out of myself. Cognitive behavioral therapy wasn't going to work for me. It didn't fit with my family time and work schedule.

I would like more than 2 days.

All Iraq and Vietnam vets are accepting; they recognize the feelings. Military experience; it's the life afterwards that's hard to deal with.

Spouse of a veteran and VA employee:
My husband was skeptical. Because of PTSD, he is slower to jump on board, less trusting, more self-conscious. He noticed a change the second day; started feeling more connected; benefitted from the smaller group. Really enjoyed it. A week would be beneficial because of having to break through a lot of barriers.

I would recommend it to anybody because it opened my eyes to self and social awareness. It was profound; social psychology all the way to quantum physics. Quantum physics tie-in is interesting.

My department (pharmacy) needs it because of emotional contagion; even before the critical conversation and intensive role-playing.

What stood out? Using horses to show non-verbal communication was an interesting concept. Wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't been there. [It's] eye-opening how much communication we do that is non-verbal and the ways we retrieve information from the environment.

He is excited about being involved in an ongoing program.
I want to know more.
Please let us know when the next one is.

VA case managers were asked to provide feedback and submitted evaluations by e-mail:
What did you like most?
  1. Learning techniques to use with veterans.
  2. Working with the horses in a peaceful/relaxing setting helped me focus on myself and my inner thoughts. I learned another useful way to teach clients how to set boundaries for others.
What did you like least?
  1. Dealing with my own anxieties.
  2. It would be hard to identify a least favorite; I really enjoyed the entire workshop.
What surprised you?
  1. Nothing.
  2. I was surprised on how easy it was to develop trust with the horses and with others attending the workshop. This will be useful in teaching others as well.
Would you recommend this experience for others? Why or why not?
  1. Yes. I believe it would be beneficial for mental health professions and veterans.
  2. I would recommend this for others, not only based on my positive experience but also because of the responses received from other Veterans with PTSD where they reported an improved self-awareness and feeling comfortable in opening up.
Please give your overall evaluation of the session.
  1. Excellent!
  2. My overall evaluation of the workshop was very positive as it was effective in helping people reflect on themselves and not the events of their lives; it also helped people learn effective boundary setting and be comfortable in opening up and letting others into their lives.

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