Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning
Our Equine Programs
Find out more about our extraordinary equine assisted services including both our Healing With Horsepower and Leading With Horsepower programs.
Ongoing monthly equine assisted healing groups for veterans and families were previously offered until COVID-19 got in the way. Our program was unique and we enjoyed serving each and every veteran and their family members that came to the arena. Find out more.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)
We called our highly acclaimed Equine Assisted Psychotherapy program Healing With Horsepower. At Veritas Counseling Center, the former therapist, in conjunction with a highly skilled and experienced equine professional, offered Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) sessions as an adjunctive therapy for interested clients who were already involved in traditional office psychotherapy. EAP was also sometimes offered during Weekend Intensive Workshops & Retreats, and various other group settings. While the human professionals design exercises for each client that xame to the arena, the horses frequently stepped up to change the plan. Perhaps they knew things we didn't.
Meet the former therapist
The former therapist, Shannon Spellman, was a masters level clinician who had been certified in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) by Greg Kersten, founder of EAGALA and of the field of EAP, through the O.K. Corral Series. Along with her over 40 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist, Shannon had also personally been involved with horses for over 30 years and provided EAP and EAL for over 12 years. She knows the power of these beautiful four-leggeds in demonstrating and healing our emotional struggles and sees her own riding as both a therapeutic and a Spiritual experience. A horse can teach us more about ourselves in one session than we can learn in years of traditional therapy. One only needs to show up and be open to the messages that these incredible animals have to give us.
Horses strengthen our self-awareness by reacting to the intentions we present to them in conjunction with our emotional state. Their reactions are sometimes referred to as mirrors of our emotional and behavioral issues in that horses are wired to respond to us from a very basic stance involving our communication with them. Horses have a way of metaphorically demonstrating to us exactly what it is we need to do in order to affect change in our lives. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy can build strength and confidence as well as clarity and determination. And many of us are able to learn things much better through a hands on metaphorical experiential approach where we can watch ourselves in a gentle way to understand our own behavior and resolve our emotional stuck points. In addition, because they are herd-bound animals, they help us to see our own interactions with others in relationships and in groups.
There is nothing like the power of relationship to assist us in finding our Truth. Horses, by their very nature, can assist us in this endeavor through our connection with them. Veritas is taken from the Latin word "verity" and used as a symbol for Truth. At Veritas, clients are gently encouraged to break through any denial that prevents them from seeing the Truth, to seek their own Truth, and work towards becoming their True Selves. Through working with horses individual clients can discover their own Truths gently and effectively and break through many issues of self-sabotage and self-defeating behaviors.
Typical clients who have found Equine Assisted Psychotherapy helpful have included those with addictions, eating disorders, relationship struggles, adjustment problems, grief and loss issues, and abuse and trauma survivors. Challenging adolescents are often helped through Equine Assisted Psychotherapy when other forms of treatment aren't successful. A special program is offered to veterans and their families. Couples, families, and groups can all benefit from EAP by learning new ways of being in relationship that can be immediately applied to current day circumstances.
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)was also available for corporate and private groups as well as for individuals, couples, and families seeking personal growth sessions. We called our Equine Assisted Learning program Leading With Horsepower. We offered sessions tailored specifically to individual and organizational needs. Whether it was to strengthen communication or provide leadership and development training we designed exercises in the arena to help clients achieve their personal growth or professional development goals.
Read about our Equine Professional and our Horse Consultants below.
Meet the Equine Professional
Britini Grenke was certified in 2017 as an Equine Professional in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning by Greg Kersten through the O.K. Corral Series. Britini has been riding horses her entire life for both pleasure and competition in multiple disciplines. She has trained horses and given people riding lessons. She graduated from AAEC High School with a Certificate of Merit in Equine Science and from Pima Medical Institute with her Veterinarian Assistant Certificate. She has worked as an equine body worker and a vet assistant and aspires to someday become an equine chiropractor or more recently a mental health counselor. She is currently attending college classes towards that goal. Britini's experience in providing equine assisted sessions started a few years ago when she volunteered here in the Healing With Horsepower program events as a teenager prior to her certification. She worked as part of a team with the therapist for equine assisted activities in both the EAP and EAL programs. Britini had a keen eye for the horse behavior and also was insightful with the people that showed up for the sessions and events.
Meet the Horses that served as Consultants...
Wakanda, is a 16 year-old Draft Crossed with something magical (Shhhhhhhhhh - rumor has it she might be crossed with a Gypsy Vanner although this unfortunately cannot be verified due to her history). Wakanda cames to us carrying much grief and loss having had her original owner die in another state. She landed in a rescue in Arizona where she chose her new home in our program by her magnetic energy that could not be ignored when the therapist met her the first time. Her history of grief is one that fits well in our program as we have had our own history here of much loss and grief with both horses and humans in the last several years. Wakanda was here to teach us something very powerful and anyone who encounters her likely had a unique experience that may be layered in many dimensions. Perhaps it is the grief she carries, but there is something about her that provided a Spiritual experience for anyone open to seeking one.
Her history is that of a work horse like many drafts who are used in some parts of the country as farm machinery. She is trained to drive both single and double and can pull a cart through just about any conditions. She is also a wonderful riding horse and has some experience out on the trail. She gets along well with both the four leggeds and the two leggeds in the program and has a rather calming and stabilizing effect on the herd. She has very kind eyes that draw her human friends in. Wakanda had just over two years of experience in the fields of EAP and EAL and she likely was helpful in every exercise that was offered to clients. She served as a fulltime consultant and is really enjoying not having to pull such heavy loads all the time but will be happy to drive us around if a cart and gear are ever added to her lifestyle. Here to the right she is having a meeting with the older gelding in the herd. It seems to be going well.
Whiskey is a Tennessee Walking Horse gelding of the smaller version than his long legged stall mate pictured below. He was a very treasured addition to our program with a trauma history much like many of the clients he helped in the program. Pictured here in flight, he demonstrates for us the fight/flight response to perceived threat. Whiskey came from another state where he was apparently abused having the scars of a once cut tongue and a rope burn above one heel. He wound up at auction which is one step away from a kill pen where he was purchased by a horse trader. From there he was rescued by a beautiful person who saw his potential and desired to protect him from further harm. He was introduced to a gentle trainer with soft hands who was willing to work with him from where he was at - an internal state full of fear and intense trust issues. Whiskey's subsequent placement in our program was perfect. He continued his training and learned more and more comfort in this thing called a safe forever home every day. He could be somewhat distant with the people that came to the arena and was only be interested in those that earn his trust. But once he accepted someone, he was known to attach quickly.
Whiskey turned out to be an even greater miracle horse here having a chronic illness that resulted in him not eating and almost losing his life. With medication, supplements, and the therapist's belief in him he was given the choice every day of moving in the direction of life or moving in the direction of death. As long as he was choosing to eat and moving in the direction of life, the therapist was willing to help him do so. Whiskey chose to live and made a huge turnaround and continues to thrive with miraculous recovery. Throughout this process he helped clients with eating disorders be able to make this same choice - to move in the direction of life. And he helped those who struggled with codependency to let go, realizing that ultimately they could not make someone live or die as the choice has to come from within.
Whiskey is friendly with the other horses but somewhat timid and defensive in the herd, striking out in self-preservation at times as he has not yet learned that being chased by another horse is not always a life or death emergency. He just wanted the other horses to all be his friend and due to his petite size he often felt threatened. As shown in this photo where he is sharing a meal with Visionheart, he quickly made friends with the mares, and eventually bonded with the other gelding in the herd. Whiskey is an Old Soul who likely knows more about trauma than most horses or people. He was here to teach us about trust and pacing in relationships, boundaries, safety, the struggle between the will to live and the suicidal surrender of death, and the ultimate achievement of emotional healing, and confidence. Whiskey served as a fulltime horse consultant in the program. For those in recovery, the therapist refered to him as the 'lil Whiskey you could enjoy without ever having to change your sobriety date. His mane is just gorgeous and falls on both sides of his neck and he gets to keep it that way because unruly hair is in at our arena.
Pictured here below out front and also to the right with Whiskey is Visionheart, a 26 year-old beautiful Quarterhorse mare with quite the history of multiple temporary adoptions, until now where she thinks she might have landed her permanent home. Visionheart has about twelve years of experience in EAP and EAL. In this photo, she appears a bit confused and even annoyed at not understanding the intentions here in this exercise. She is a beautiful, gentle soul with a strong desire to do the right thing. When she can't quite figure out what that is, she becomes easily frustrated and her trauma based control issues are brought to the surface.
She is well-trained, and was an excellent consultant in EAP and EAL, having very polite ground manners and being easily approachable. Her prior experience includes some reining and cutting/sorting cattle on a ranch, and she also likely has some previous competition experience having performance bloodlines. She has also served as a lesson horse and as a trail horse. Visionheartwais a fulltime consultant to the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Equine Assisted Learning programs.
Another of our horses is Prince, a thirteen year-old Tennessee Walking Horse gelding. He is a gentle giant with a child's curiosity, eager to please and sometimes still working at trusting in the world around him. He is experienced in the fields of EAP/EAL, having about 9 years of experience behind him, and brings innocence and entertainment to the exercises. Prince has thousands of miles out on the trail and in the arena and continues to learn new things daily. He is shown here in a younger picture with the therapist and also above in a photo with Wakanda..
Prince served as a fulltime consultant and participated in as many exercises as he was asked to. He gets along well with the other four-legged consultants as well as his two-legged handlers and was always ready to meet the two-legged participants that came to the arena. Prince appears to have finally stopped his growth spurts and his body finally caught up with his legs. He's learned that his head, body and feet are all connected somehow and he is typically sure footed and confident out on the trail. He is playful and powerful in the Equine Assisted activites.
Many of the horses that have served in the program have qualified as rescue horses who otherwise would not have a home. Although we are not a nonprofit horse rescue organization, we value horses for what they can bring to the program rather than what they cannot. We only took in horses when we had the means to care for them in the best manner that all horses deserve. Rescue should not result in more trauma, but instead in trauma resolution and renewal.
Horses at Veritas Counseling Center, together with their two-legged consultants, had a way of making life very real and helping us find our Truth. Clients were be invited to join us in the arena and to Get Real at Veritas.
Former Horse Consultants
Reggie, a Tennessee Walking Horse gelding, was born in 2004. Although not a rescued horse, he had a difficult beginning. The scars on his legs are a result of being abused as he was being prepared to be in the show ring. Luckily for Reggie, his trainer was banned from the show world and Reggie has been able to be in a well loved family and trail horse for several years now where he continues in this role.
Reggie's demeanor every day and in the therapy program was very friendly and playful. He was entertaining and loved all the people and the other horses, too. He brought the gifts of humor and boundaries to those he chooses to work with. Reggie had not planned on being a therapy horse but he fit right into the program as needed for several years. He and Prince, shown above on this page, are "cousins" in the TWH world both having foundation bloodlines with world champion roots. He served as a part-time consultant in the program having a full-time job with our former equine professional elsewhere. We were blessed to have them both in the program.
We were deeply saddened to have lost this most incredible horse in the winter of 2015 and we remain honored to have had him in our program. This gorgeous tri-colored Pinto of mostly unknown mixed heritage pictured here to the right came to us with over 15 years of experience in the field of EAP & EAL and he was trained from the ground up by our former equine professional years ago. His name was Maverick and he was born sometime around 1991 and had a history that was as colorful as he was. He was separated from his mother and the herd at 4 months old. Due to living in a pen all by himself, he missed out on all of the lessons he would have gained from being part of a community of others. He didn’t learn about group living and support. He didn’t learn about trust and body language or herd communication. He never got the chance to play with others in the herd as he was growing up. He was left a stallion and un-gentled until he was past 7 years old.
Around 7 ½ years old, he was purchased and promptly became a therapy horse. He was trained by our former equine professional from a wild stallion into the gentle confident consultant that he became. His job was to teach others who came to know him to trust, just as he was learning to trust. He also had to learn to live in a herd, and his lessons helped others to learn to live in their own community. Through the years, Maverick was transformed from a fearful, un-sociable, untrusting horse, to a bold, trusting, playful horse who delighted in the company of 4 legged and 2 legged friends. He continued to be an amazing therapy horse, working with a variety of people of all ages. He even spent some time at a guest ranch and was the favorite mount of many-a-visitor. (There are rumors that a famous person from Hollywood actually tried to buy him, but he was there to remind us that there are SOME things that money just can’t buy). Clear to the end he still held onto some of those old fear-based behaviors, but only to remind his human companions to be confident and brave, with good communication and boundaries. He was very forgiving of people and their own fears, but he would turn his tail and playfully run from anyone who tried to treat him without the respect he deserved. Maverick had much to teach us. Beyond his physical beauty and obvious strength, Maverick was living proof that through positive relationships, healing and happiness are definitely achievable.
We were taken by surprise at the loss of this beautiful horse in the fall of 2014. She had been a fulltime consultant in the program and her name was Mystic, an elder mare in her 20's of unknown mixed breed. She had a varied history with having had numerous babies and also serving as a barrel racing horse and a trail horse in her past. She was a gentle and well-trained horse, and obviously a horse of a different sort with her mixed background resulting in a beautiful blend of several coat colors. Mystic was initially a bit timid in her new home but adjusted well to her new stall mates and owner. She came to us in grief having to be given up as a result of a terminal illness in the two-legged family she resided in, forcing the re-location of horses due to medical and financial hardships. Her former mother is an equine massage therapist who loved her very much and wanted to find a home for her where she could have a purpose to live out the rest of her life.
She was first offered to a therapeutic riding program that works with physically handicapped children and Mystic did great except for being spooked by some of the props which would have made it unsafe for the children to be riding her. Mystic had the opportunity to confront her fears of those same types of props here in the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning programs but she did so with only ground work when those props are being used so as not to re-traumatize her or cause trouble for the participants. Mystic was utilized for both ground and mounted exercises and had over 5 years of experience in the Equine Assisted programs. She got along well with others, both two-legged and four-legged, and typically was reserved, shy, and passive in the herd. Mystic helped numerous clients through a variety of issues and had been an excellent horse consultant serving individuals, couples, and groups.
This horse, also the same animal pictured at the top right on this page is Desiree'. She served as an elder at the equine facility in EAP as primarily a retired equine consultant. She is pictured with the psychotherapist, Shannon Spellman. Desiree' was a 25 year old Quarterhorse mare who suffered an accidental permanent knee injury years ago. Although she was well-trained, she intermittently suffered from chronic pain and could be difficult at times and rather rude and bossy in the herd. She carried years of untreated control issues along with extreme abandonment issues. For those sessions that Desiree' was able to participate in, she provided life-changing experiences to the clients that worked with her. She brought wisdom, strength, and attitude to the EAP program after having served many years as a trail horse and companion. It is with much grief and sadness that we said goodbye to Desiree' in the fall of 2011 when her chronic pain became too much for her and she let us know that she was ready to crossover the Rainbow Bridge where she is now running with new knees pain free. To honor her years of service, the therapist chose this picture to be the company logo.
In the second paragraph on this page above, we have Caspian. Caspian was a previous horse consultant that was a 15 year-old gelding of Quarterhorse crossed breed. He was very experienced in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy with 12 years behind him in the field. He also had over 14 years of experience as a lesson horse with both children and adults and had been trained in English, Western, and jumping. Caspian was a part-time consultant with a full-time job in the field elsewhere. It is with much sadness that we had to say goodbye to Caspian in April of 2011 when he died unexpectedly at his home. He will be missed.
In the third paragraph on this page, underneath the photo of Caspian, we have Maggie, also a former part-time consultant, who is a 16 year-old Quarterhorse cross mare who brought us credentials of 2 years prior experience in EAP & EAL. She had 14 years of other experience and served as a lesson horse for adults and children for over 7 of them. She is gentle and calm and typically gets along well with others, both the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds. Maggie has moved on in her life having been purchased in 2011 and taken to another state.
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Veritas Counseling Center, LLC • Phoenix, Arizona