Bob: Hello, everyone! I'm here today with a very special member of the STEPS with Horses herd, our esteemed miniature donkey, Donkey. Donkey, thank you for joining us today. Can you share a bit about your background and how you became the longest-standing member of the STEPS herd?
Donkey: Well, hello, Bob! It's always a pleasure to chat. I've been with STEPS with Horses for quite a while now, the longest of the bunch, you could say. As you know, you and I came together from our last ranch, and I've seen this wonderful organization grow and flourish over the years.
Bob: That's incredible, Donkey. Can you tell us about your role in equine assisted counseling and how long you've been working with clients?
Donkey: Absolutely, Bob. I've been a part of the equine assisted counseling team for more than five years now. It's been a transformative experience for me. When I first started, I was quite scared of people – I'd run away from everyone. But through the counseling sessions, I found my purpose and calling in life. Helping clients, supporting them when they're feeling anxious or vulnerable, that's what I live for.
Bob: That's beautiful, Donkey. How has equine assisted counseling helped you build trust in people while also aiding your clients?
Donkey: It's been quite the journey, Bob. Doing this counseling work helped me realize that people are here to support and care for me, just like I support and care for them. It's a mutual understanding that's built on trust and connection. As I've opened up to clients, I've seen them open up too. We've grown together, and it's a remarkable experience.
Bob: That's truly heartwarming, Donkey. Now, I've seen that you're particularly good at picking up on when your clients are feeling anxious or vulnerable. Can you tell us more about how you show your support and protectiveness?
Donkey: Absolutely, Bob. It's like I have a sixth sense for it. When clients are feeling uneasy or vulnerable, I step in front of them. It's a way of showing them that I'm here, I've got their back, and they're not alone. It's a silent communication that speaks volumes, and it's amazing to see the comfort it brings to our clients.
Bob: Your empathy and support are truly commendable, Donkey. Now, I'd love for you to share with our audience about the Ride with Kendall campaign. Can you tell us more about it?
Donkey: Absolutely, Bob. Kendall Hayley is an amazing human who's embarking on a motorcycle journey of a lifetime. He’s a long-distance endurance motorcyclist with over 300,000 miles logged on a Harley Davidson over the past 10 years who has been selected for the most extreme motorcycle challenge in the world, the Hoka Hey. In August 2024, Kendall will cover over 10,000 miles in 10-14 days, starting from the southern point of Key West, Florida, and finishing in Homer, Alaska.
Bob: That sounds like an incredible challenge. Can you tell us more about the Hoka Hey and what makes it so unique?
Donkey: Certainly, Bob. The Hoka Hey is not just a race; it's a challenge that pushes riders to their limits. It's more than a test of riding skill and endurance; it's a spiritual, mental, and physical challenge. Riders are equipped with only handwritten turn-by-turn directions, with no GPS or map navigation. They sleep outside next to their motorcycles each night. It's an event that truly challenges every aspect of a rider, from the selection process to reaching the finish line.
Bob: Kendall's dedication to such an extreme challenge is commendable. Why is Kendall riding for STEPS, and how does his journey connect with our mission?
Donkey: Kendall's connection with STEPS' mission runs deep. As an Ordained Youth Minister, with a professional career in the death care industry, and a personal experience of losing a brother to suicide, Kendall understands the importance of mental health support. He sees the life-changing value in what STEPS with Horses does, especially for Veterans and At-Risk Teenagers. Riding for STEPS is Kendall's way of using his passion for motorcycling to raise awareness and support for an organization that directly impacts people he deeply cares for. It's a beautiful alignment of his personal experiences and his desire to make a positive difference.
Bob: Thank you, Donkey, for shedding light on Kendall's incredible journey and the meaningful cause he’s riding for. It's heartening to see individuals like Kendall dedicating their efforts to support organizations like ours.
Donkey: Thank you, Bob. And to everyone listening, remember, Kendall's ride is not just a motorcycle journey; it's a journey of empathy, compassion, and awareness. Let's all support his mission and make a difference together. You can even help Kendall reach his goal of raising a dollar per mile giving to https://donorbox.org/ride-with-kendall-hokahey
Want to work with Donkey in counseling?
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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!
Troy* was a Navy veteran who had lost several friends to suicide. He had also attempted suicide himself and struggled with PTSD from this experience. Despite his best efforts, Troy found himself overwhelmed by grief and anxiety. He was struggling to find a way to process his emotions and move forward. One day, his cousin suggested he try equine assisted counseling.
When Troy arrived for his first session, he was highly anxious. He had never worked with horses before and wasn’t sure what to expect. He was immediately drawn to a horse named Sassy who was the first to approach him. Despite her bold approach, there was something calming about Sassy that drew Troy toward her.
As Troy spent more time with Sassy, he began to notice how her behavior changed when his emotions changed. Recognizing changes in Sassy’s behavior helped Troy begin to gain a greater awareness of his own emotions and new perspective on how he was feeling. With Sassy by his side, Troy felt more comfortable to talk about his experiences, even the traumatic ones, with more ease. He found that having a hand on Sassy’s neck helped him stay calmer during these conversations.
Through his time with Sassy, Troy also began to explore his own sense of self since leaving the military. He realized that he struggled with decision-making and was often unsure of what he wanted. But, as Troy continued to work with Sassy and the other horses, he became more confident in recognizing how they communicated with him. In turn, Troy became more confident in recognizing his own needs and communicating them to the horses.
As Troy approached the end of his time in equine assisted counseling, he recognized many ways that the horses had helped him change. He noticed that he was more confident, more self-aware, and better able to manage his emotions. Troy expressed gratitude for the experience and how he would continue to use the skills learned from his time with Sassy for the rest of his life.
You can help military veterans like Troy during Mental Health Awareness Month! For every donation of $15 or more during the month of May 2023, North Texas Giving Day and The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation will add an extra $15, amplifying the impact of your contribution.
Donate at https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/organization/stepswithhorses
*Names and details have been changed to protect client privacy and identity
STEPS With Horses