Ever since I learned that people were partnering with horses in the mental health field, I knew that was what I was meant to do.
I spent time in college working at a non-profit as an equine specialist in partnership with a therapist and her horses. It never felt like a day of work, but the results for our clients were profound. The program ended, but my passion did not.
I completed my master’s in counseling in 2012 and worked in community-based mental health for many years with children and families involved in the child welfare system. I became passionate about learning everything I could about the impact of trauma and attachment wounds.
In 2018, I began exploring options to branch out on my own to pursue this work. I considered so many wonderful programs, but I was limited in my options for travel while nursing my youngest child. I had wanted to pursue Natural Lifemanship as they focus on trauma-informed Equine Assisted Services. But, back then, they simply didn’t have as many opportunities for trainings unless you were able to travel out of state.
I decided to begin my official journey into this field with a 5-day intensive training through EAGALA. EAGALA is known as the gold standard in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and have been around for over twenty years. They are praised for having a code of ethics and standards for continued education required to maintain certification. It was a huge investment, but it felt right.
In December 2018, I loaded the car, and my mother joined me to stay with my two young children in a hotel for five days while I attended the training. Don’t let my short sleeves in the photo below fool you; those five days were filled with extreme weather, flash floods, and so much mud. In spite of my wind-chapped face, I enjoyed it deeply. I felt the trainers did a great job hosting the training and I left feeling prepared to apply the skills I had learned. I was officially EAGALA certified and I started my business, Tailwinds Therapy, a few months later in 2019.
(To read more about my EAGALA experience, click here.)
As time went on, and as I deepened my learning even more around trauma and attachment wounds, I circled back around to Natural Lifemanship. I checked back in on their website and I was overjoyed when Natural Lifemanship expanded their trainings to California! I prepared to sign up for one up north in April 2020….but we can all see where this is going.
It was canceled.
While I was disappointed, I figured once this whole pandemic settled down I would go ahead and sign back up for another training in California. Of course, that plan didn’t work out so well either. It turns out that Natural Lifemanship moved to an online format with a curriculum and options for live and interactive feedback. They require participation in group conversations with the cohort and videos submitted of participants practicing their skills, but it remains 100% virtual for most trainings.
I held off on signing up for the online training thinking I would hold out for another in-person opportunity. Then they began limiting openings to twice a year to join their online program. So, when I opened the email that they were starting their new cohort in September of 2022, I checked in with some friends who completed the training recently. They had such wonderful feedback and highly recommended I join too. I reminded myself that my word for the year was “invest” and I decided this was one more way to invest in my journey. So, I signed up!
I was nervous that an online training wouldn’t be what I needed, but I am enjoying it so much! They structure their model around the neuroscience behind trauma and pull from the work of Dr. Bruce Perry, Dan Siegel, Bessel van der Kolk, and many other leaders in the field of trauma recovery. They challenge the paradigms created both within the trauma field and within the horse industry and try their best to blend the two in a way that best serves both horse and human. It is building on my existing knowledge and also teaching me more about how to integrate the science and research-based principles into working with the horses.
Once completed, this training will make me “Level One Trained” in Natural Lifemanship and moves me forward in the full certification process. There are several more trainings, supervision, and hands-on experiences before becoming a certified provider, but I’m on the right path.
While I remain EAGALA certified, I am so excited to continue my education in this field and to be able to deliver a deeper approach to healing for my clients. Stay tuned for more updates on this process!
To learn more, visit https://naturallifemanship.com