Equine-assisted therapy: Rainhorse facilitates healing through equine partners
Rainhorse Founder and Executive Director Maria Eastman has always had a passion for horses. She has been around horses all of her life and used to show, train and rehabilitate ex-race horses.
When she was looking for a career in the equine industry, therapeutic work was very appealing to Maria. As an advanced certified instructor and equine specialist in mental health and learning, Maria found her passion helping horses and people.
“Therapeutic work attracted me since I know horses are really good for people,” she shares.
The mission of Rainhorse is to offer equine-assisted activities and therapies and bring the remarkable healing help of horses to people from all walks of life. Rainhorse offers equine-assisted counseling and equine-assisted learning.
In 2008, Rainhorse focused on a few weekend workshops and summer camps for kids, she notes. Then, for roughly five years, Rainhorse worked with the Wyoming Boys’ School in Worland.
After a short break, Rainhorse will be returning to the Wyoming Boys’ School to work with the kids.
During a session, Maria and her team, along with therapists and counselors at the facility, go through several learning and counseling activities with the kids.
“We will usually work with a group of four youths at a time,” she says. “We bring in four horses at a time because a lot of the activities we do and the therapy the counselors want to work on are about communication, relationship building, working with other people and self-confidence – it all works really well if each participant can kind of bond with their own special horse.”
Equine therapy plays an important role for individuals who are going through a difficult time or may be suffering from a mental illness, and the horses really help because they motivate people, she says.
“Young people who may be resistant to the idea of counseling, often really want to build a relationship with the horse,” she says.
In another Rainhorse program, Ponies and Poetry, Maria takes two miniature ponies into a local retirement home for dementia care.
“We have different activities and we also write stories and poems together,” says Maria. “The ponies make a good thing for them to write about because, for the most part, everyone in Wyoming has either had a horse or has been around a horse.”
Maria gives residents things to think about or remember, because often people with dementia can remember things from long ago, she explains. They then give her phrases or words and she puts poems together with their help, Maria adds.
Other Rainhorse programs include providing equine-assisted therapy for a short-term crisis intervention program operated by Cloud Peak Counseling, veteran workshops, a program for women from a variety of socioeconomic groups and a therapeutic workshop for cancer survivors, caregivers and families.
The program utilizes seven horses and ponies for their sessions named Coco, Finnegan, Gabriella, Gandalf, Daylight, Rosie and Noche. Maria shares many of the horses she uses are rescued horses, including three off-the-track Thoroughbreds.
“These horses are rescued or second-career horses,” she says. “Some of them came from improper care and we have retrained and rehabilitated them, and they then work with people in our program who have had troubles too.”
“The healing goes both ways,” she adds. “Some of our horses have not come from a difficult background, but most of them do.”
The cost for Rainhorse to keep one horse healthy and happy is between $250 to $300 per month.
Sponsorship care for Rainhorses includes feed – hay, grain and pasture; supplements; farrier work; routine veterinary care such as vaccinations; and working, grooming and exercise.
Each horse requires a different level of care, but sponsors can choose a sponsorship level best fitting their budget. Rainhorse has been a nonprofit organization since 2015 and relies on grants and donations for funding from organizations and individuals.
“Another part of our mission is to make this equine-assisted work affordable and available to populations in Wyoming who maybe can’t afford to receive equine-assisted services,” she says. “It can be expensive, and one of our goals is to make it accessible for everybody.”
and healing horses
When asked what Maria’s favorite part about her job is, she says, “Seeing our participants open up, feel better or face their challenges with a little bit more confidence is really rewarding – all from a horse.”
Maria is also a certified Masterson Method practitioner. The method is a form of equine bodywork based on the horse’s neurological responses, helping them relax and improve range of motion and performance, she explains.
“It has a great effect on horses who have had traumatic experience or trouble,” she notes. “We use this Masterson technique a lot with our horses when we are rehabbing them.”
“Horses and humans are both creatures who live in communities, and we are both very sensitive to the emotional states of others in our community,” she concludes. “Although, we humans often lose some of this sensitivity. At Rainhorse, clients can work to regain some of this lost connection.”
For more information, visit rainhorse.org.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.