“Therapy with horses is about being able to create and maintain a connected relationship,” said Robin Cruise, licensed clinical social worker trained to perform psychotherapy. “Horses are capable of engaging in healthy, genuine connection, relationship, and partnership.”
Robin, along with Shooting Star Stables owner Heather McBryar and fellow EAS certified therapist Rachel Hay, want to help clients ages 6 and older, including adolescents and adults, discover effective new strategies to manage unhealthy patterns and behaviors. “It is our vision that Shooting Star Stables will be a haven for horses as well as people seeking a new or different response to depression, anxiety and trauma.”
Rachel says working with horses helps people develop and practice important life skills, such as problem solving, setting boundaries, teamwork, empathy, resource gathering, impulse control, conflict resolution, self-advocacy, and more.
“They [horses] meet us where we’re at, mentally and emotionally. They don’t see our ‘labels.’ To them, we are not people with a past or present abuse, ongoing trauma, PTSD, anxiety, grief, or eating disorder, or 100 other labels,” Rachel said. “The beautiful thing about horses is that people feel seen in their presence. Because of this, people feel safe to bring their authentic selves to this experience, including feelings of deficiencies, hurt, pain, insecurities and fears. For some clients in mental health services, this can be the first time experiencing such a relationship. To be truly seen and heard is a foundation for healing.”
“I will never forget the first time I experienced this type of interaction with a horse,” said Heather. “Now, I feel so blessed to have the ability and opportunity to facilitate this experience between my horses and members of our community.”
When buying the farm, Heather envisioned creating an environment that would be welcoming for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Rachel and Robin to create these equine-assisted learning and therapy services. In the words of Herman Melville, ‘No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.’ My hope is that we can share this ‘magic’ of horses with many people in the coming months and years.”
Heather owns quite a few therapy horses, each with its own magical personality.
Kalena - She is a bay (reddish-brown) Polish Arabian. She is a very social, spunky, yet gentle horse. She loves attention!
Ella - She is a tobiano (white, brown, and black spotted)
Gypsy Vanner - She is a smart, stoic, sometimes anxious horse. She is choosy in who she bonds with.
Gigi - She is a flea-bitten grey quarter horse. She is gentle, affectionate, and loves everyone. She is often the first one to meet you at the gate. She often demonstrates empathy and seems to intuitively know how to take care of her rider.
Caroline - She is a Rocky Mountain horse with the classic chocolate and flaxen mane coloring. She loves attention, is very affectionate, but also sassy at times with the other mares. This past year she developed chronic uveitis, a condition that has caused visual impairment in both eyes, and will eventually cause blindness.
Rider - He is a halflinger with the typical caramel colored body and blonde mane. We call him the welcoming committee because he is definitely an extrovert. He loves interaction and is a willing participant in the arena. He might pull on your zipper or nibble at your hair when you’re not looking!
Toby - Exact breeding unknown, but he has a white body with tri-color spots all over. We suspect he may have been neglected or mistreated in the past, as he was withdrawn and unsure of everything when he got to the farm. His personality has slowly emerged and while he’s stoic, he’s also unbelievably gentle and loving.
Anyone interested in learning more is welcome to schedule a free meet and greet session at the farm. Upcoming events include a Halloween barn party and horse show on Saturday, October 21, and an open house and equine assisted services demo on Saturday, November 2. For more information about Hope & Healing Equine Therapy, contact RobinCruise@gmail.com or Rhhay14@gmail.com. Shooting Star Stables is located at 1219 Sawyer Cemetery Road, Signal Mountain, TN.
by Michelle Michaud