Bob: Hi folks! It's me, Bob, the Official STEPS Human-Equine Relations Manager and your host for today. Welcome to my show, Starbuck! We're thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with you today. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a therapy horse?
Starbuck: Thank you for having me! Well, my journey started as a dressage show horse, where I had the privilege of showcasing my skills and grace in the ring. But as time went on, I felt a calling to serve a different purpose. That's when I transitioned into becoming a therapeutic riding lesson horse for individuals with disabilities. Nowadays, I work at STEPS With Horses in Fort Worth, Texas as both a counseling partner and therapeutic riding partner for individuals with mental health challenges.
Bob: That's remarkable, Starbuck. How old are you, and can you share your breed with us?
Starbuck: I'm currently 24 years old, and I'm a Shire/Thoroughbred cross. My mixed heritage gives me a unique combination of strength and agility, which comes in handy during my therapeutic riding lessons.
Bob: It's fascinating to hear about your background. Can you tell us about your best friend in the herd and your relationship with them?
Starbuck: Ah, my best friend in the herd is Keyman. We have quite a special bond, even though we occasionally bicker like old friends do. We have our differences, but deep down, we can't be without each other. Keyman keeps me grounded and reminds me of the importance of friendship and companionship.
Bob: That sounds like a wonderful connection. Now, let's talk about your experience in equine assisted counseling. How has it helped you learn to trust people again?
Starbuck: Participating in equine assisted counseling has been a transformative experience for me. I had encountered some challenging situations in the past that made me skeptical of human intentions. Through this therapy, I've had the opportunity to work closely with caring and compassionate clients who have helped me rebuild my trust in people. It's been a journey of healing and rediscovery.
Bob: That's truly inspiring, Starbuck. Your resilience shines through. Can you share your special talent in helping clients feel safe and overcome their fears.
Starbuck: Certainly! One of my special talents is creating a safe space for clients to express themselves and grow. Many individuals who come to the sessions may have fears or anxieties, but through our interactions, I can sense their emotions and provide a calming presence. I have a way of connecting with them, allowing them to feel safe enough to face their fears and embark on a path of personal growth. It's incredibly rewarding to witness their progress.
Bob: Absolutely, Starbuck. Before we conclude, we'd love to know from your perspective as a therapy horse, what is the most important thing you want people to know about equine assisted counseling?
Starbuck: That's a great question. The most important thing I want people to know about equine assisted counseling is that it's not about riding horses or just being around animals. It's a powerful and effective form of therapy that can bring about profound emotional and psychological healing. Horses, like me, have an innate ability to sense and respond to human emotions without judgment. In these sessions, we become partners in the healing process, offering support, trust, and a safe space for clients to explore their feelings and overcome challenges.
Bob: It's evident that you play a vital role in the therapeutic process, Starbuck. Thank you for sharing your remarkable journey with us today. Your dedication and compassion are truly inspiring.
Starbuck: Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my story. It's an honor to be part of such a meaningful endeavor. I look forward to continuing to help clients on their healing journeys and making a positive impact in their lives.
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At STEPS With Horses, we stand apart from other equine assisted services organizations through our exclusive focus on mental health services and providing innovative and evidence-informed equine assisted counseling to individuals seeking emotional healing and growth. Led by industry expert, Dr. Hallie Sheade, our team has provided over 10,000 hours of equine assisted counseling and is committed to empowering clients to lead fulfilling lives.
Mental Health Services as Our Core Focus
STEPS With Horses is different from many other equine therapy organizations because mental health services are at the heart of everything we do. Our primary goal is to support individuals in their journey towards mental well-being, utilizing the powerful bond between humans and horses to facilitate the healing process.
Our licensed mental health professionals undergo specialized training to effectively integrate equine-assisted modalities with evidence-based therapeutic techniques. By leveraging this unique approach, we can address a wide range of mental health challenges, such as anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, child behavior issues, as well as many others.
Innovative Step-Down Model
At STEPS, we believe in the power of continuity of care. Our innovative step-down approach, the Spectrum of Therapeutic Equine-Partnered Services (“STEPS”) Model, allows clients to transition from clinical services, such as equine assisted counseling, to nonclinical services like therapeutic horsemanship. This progression allows clients to continue their connection with horses and build on the skills they have developed during counseling, creating a seamless path for continued growth.
During the transition to therapeutic horsemanship, clients are supported by experienced equine professionals who foster an environment of trust and encouragement. In this phase, individuals can strengthen their relationship with the horses, while maintaining and building upon gains made in counseling.
Continuity of Care and Peer Connections
At STEPS, we recognize the importance of ongoing support in the healing journey. Clients who transition to our nonclinical services are encouraged to participate in regular check-ins with their counselor. These check-ins provide a sense of security and a space to discuss progress, challenges, and successes, allowing us to tailor the support provided according to individual needs.
Our team of trained equines professionals actively monitor clients during their participation in therapeutic horsemanship. By doing so, we can quickly detect any early warning signs and reconnect clients with their counselor if needed. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of relapse or regression, ensuring the best possible outcome for our clients.
Moreover, our therapeutic horsemanship classes offer a unique opportunity for clients to make meaningful peer-to-peer connections. Sharing their experiences with others in similar situations fosters a sense of community and understanding, further enhancing the therapeutic process.
Evidence-Informed Equine Assisted Counseling
At STEPS, we take pride in our equine assisted counseling approaches, Relational Equine-Partnered Counseling (REPC) and Equine-Partnered Play Therapy (EPPT). Both approaches are grounded in best practices from the fields of counseling, psychotherapy, animal-assisted therapy, and equine behavior and welfare.
Our team continuously evaluates and refines our counseling techniques based on research and client feedback. This commitment to evidence-informed practices ensures that clients receive the most effective and compassionate care possible, fostering lasting positive changes in their lives.
High Improvement Rates, Lasting Impact
At STEPS With Horses, our equine assisted mental health services deliver exceptional results. Over the past two years, 86% of military veterans and 77% of military youth in our grant-funded programs have shown significant improvement in at least one area of their emotional well-being.
Compared to other approaches, our improvement rates surpass children in office-based play therapy (71%) from Play Therapy International (2023). Notably, our dropout rate of 27% for military veterans is much lower than gold standard treatments offered by the VA, where dropout rates can reach 56% for prolonged exposure treatment and 47% for cognitive processing therapy (Richman, 2022).
Among veterans who completed at least six sessions, an impressive 77% demonstrated at least a 30% improvement in depression symptoms. In comparison, 49% of veterans receiving office-based treatment through the VA achieved similar progress (National Center for PTSD, 2022).
Our organization is led by Dr. Hallie Sheade, a renowned expert in the equine assisted services industry. Dr. Sheade developed our evidence-informed approaches, REPC and EPPT. With years of experience and countless success stories, Dr. Sheade has authored the book, Equine Assisted Counseling and Psychotherapy: Healing Through Horses.
As a sought-after speaker at conferences and professional events, Dr. Sheade actively contributes to the advancement of equine assisted counseling and mental health services. Her role as the Psychotherapy Technical Editor for PATH Intl.'s quarterly publication, Strides, further highlights her dedication to promoting best practices within the industry. Beyond her scholarly contributions, Dr. Sheade is involved in leadership and service roles for PATH Intl. and the Horses and Humans Research Foundation.
Training the Future Professionals
At STEPS With Horses, we believe in sharing our knowledge and expertise to shape the future of the equine assisted mental health services industry. Through our high-quality training program, we provide internships in partnership with several universities nationwide, offering hands-on experience to future mental health professionals and equine experts.
Additionally, we conduct professional training workshops attended by practitioners from all over the world. These workshops provide a platform for professionals to enhance their skills, exchange insights, and network with like-minded individuals. By investing in the training of future professionals, we aim to elevate the standard of care across the industry and expand the positive impact of equine assisted counseling globally.
At STEPS With Horses, our dedication to mental health services, innovative step-down model, evidence-informed counseling approaches, high improvement rates, visionary leadership, and commitment to training future professionals set us apart. With your support, we can continue transforming lives through the unique bond between humans and horses, offering hope, healing, and growth to those in need. Together, let's build a world where the healing power of horses enriches lives and fosters emotional well-being for generations to come.
Give the gift of healing through horses (and donkeys!) today! Donate at www.stepswithhorses.org/donate
Interested in becoming a client? Give us a call at (682) 219-8733 or fill out our info form!
STEPS With Horses