Personal growth developed through equine therapyWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
By Lori Dewey
Riverbend Leadership Solutions was founded on the belief that individuals can achieve a greater sense of self-awareness by interacting with horses.
The Grand Rapids, Ohio-based organization was established in 2013 with the goal of enhancing personal and professional growth in development, leadership and communication skills through equine therapy.
The principal idea behind equine therapy is that horses possess an instinctive ability to mirror those with whom they interact, allowing individuals to develop a better understanding of their leadership and communication styles, said founder and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning (EAGALA)-certified equine specialist Amanda Thompson.
This heightened understanding leads to the enhancement of effective communication and the development of more unified interpersonal and professional relationships, she said.
Thompson said her goal in creating Riverbend Leadership was to help people achieve health, healing and growth.
“I do not heal people; they heal themselves,” Thompson said. “I just provide the environment and the tools they need to heal.”
Thompson grew up riding and showing horses, and developed a love for the animals at a young age. She spent four years in the military on active duty during which time she began to learn to communicate with and tame wild horses.
She realized that she was on to something when she noticed her interactions with the horses strengthened her leadership, communication and interpersonal skills in other areas of her life.
Upon returning to Ohio after her military career, she attended college for business and wrote a business plan for owning and running a horse farm. She said her grandfather and father helped her to make her dream a reality in 2006 when she bought a farm.
She began by working with horse owners who were having difficulty managing their animals. She was able to assist people in establishing a relationship and communicating with their horses.
Shortly thereafter, she established a nonprofit organization using equine therapy to help abused women and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said the positive results for participants were almost immediately recognizable, with improvement in life impairments in as few as six sessions with the horses.
“Horses will pull out of you not what you think you need to know, but what you really need to know,” said Sarah Hafner, operations manager of Equine Leadership Solutions.
Currently, the organization’s primary target audience is corporate America. Thompson believes that business executives can learn about their leadership and communication styles by interacting with the horses, and from there they can develop a plan of action.
By identifying how to incorporate what is learned from equine therapy into the work environment, communication and leadership skills are improved and cohesive professional relationships are formed, she said.
Riverbend Leadership also offers equine therapy to people struggling with depression, anxiety and grief issues. Hafner is currently working with several clients on coping with the grief of losing a pet, which she said she finds extremely rewarding.
“The results are outstanding,” Hafner said. “They come in vulnerable and unsure of themselves and leave with a newfound confidence and empowerment.”
The farm currently houses 13 horses, all of which were rescued by Thompson. Besides herself, consistent with the EAGALA model for equine therapy, she also employs Paul Standinger, a therapist.
Together, they form a team with the horses to provide therapeutic programs and workshops to people and businesses within the community.
EAGALA, Thompson’s certifying body, is a nonprofit organization founded in 1999 comprised of more than 4,000 members from 49 different countries.
This association sets the standards of practice for certified equine specialists, with a vision that “every person worldwide will have access to Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning Services, provided at the highest standard of excellence,” according to the group’s website.
Thompson hopes to continue to grow her organization and expand her services through community awareness and education. Riverbend Leadership is presently in search of sponsors for their horses in order to continue to provide these therapies.
For more information, visit www.riverbendequine.org.
Tags: Amanda Thompson, EAGALA, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning, Equine Leadership Solutions, equine therapy, Grand Rapids, growth, healing, Health, nonprofit organization, Ohio, Paul Standinger, Riverbend Leadership, Riverbend Leadership Solutions, therapist