fbpx
Certifications in Equine Assisted Services: Comparing Apples to Oranges

Certifications in Equine Assisted Services: Comparing Apples to Oranges

By Bettina Shultz-Jobe (with a ton of help from Kate Naylor and Laura McFarland!)

 

This data is accurate, to the very best of our knowledge as of 09/07/2022. As we are made aware of changes or get better information, we will update this page.

 

Interested in becoming certified to offer Equine Assisted Services?

 

When it comes to getting certified in Equine Assisted Services, you have a LOT of choices. All of the programs offer something unique and the decision about which certification to pursue is a very personal (and, at times, daunting) one.  As the field grows, there are more and more really wonderful options for learning.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to compare the different programs side-by-side so you can make a decision on which one is truly best for you.  It’s a bit like. . . comparing apples to oranges, if you will. 

It is our priority that you find, and create, the path that is right for you. That may mean you choose one of Natural Lifemanship’s certification paths, or it may mean you choose one of the other programs in this field. Our goal with this comparison is not to sway you to one program or another, but to give you a snapshot of what’s out there. Of course we’re biased, but customers regularly ask us for this comparison. In this light, we’ve taken a deep look at six major EAS certification programs that exist in the United States today and compared and contrasted each program so that you can examine the options and make an informed decision.  

There is certainly a lot of subjectivity when it comes to choosing the program that is right for you, but our intention with this blog was to stick to the facts.  It is our hope that this detailed look at where each program excels and who benefits most from each of the programs will free you up to listen to your body, mind, and soul as you make an embodied and integrated decision.      

 

How did we choose which EAS certification programs to include?

 

Above all, we chose organizations that we regularly hear our students talking about. 

Additionally, most of the organizations we chose have been around for a long time.  We did choose a couple up and coming organizations because we’ve heard great things about their offerings from our students and are familiar with and have great respect for their founders.  Five of the six organizations we chose offer an official certification. It was our intention to include the most reputable certifications available on the market.   

This list is definitely not exhaustive.  This research took a lot of time, and truth be told, choosing which organizations to include was a somewhat challenging process because there are a number of great options available in our field today.  Please keep in mind that there are many fabulous places to learn and people to learn from that do not offer certifications.     

 

So Then, Why Certification?

 

While certification is not legally required to offer Equine Assisted Services to the public, a certification process is by far more impactful and informative than a single training. Most certifications require a certain amount of learning, paired with a number of practice hours and mentoring that will take your practice to the next level, and support you in offering services ethically. 

Take a look at our previous blog, Ten Things You Need to Know When Choosing an Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning Certification, to get a better idea of some of the qualities of a good certification process, to help you make – the more subjective part of – your decision.  

But not all certification paths are for everyone. In the charts below we have outlined information that can be gathered from each organization’s website.  We have done our best to give you accurate information and will make changes as new or different information is made available to us.   

Below you will find language from each organization’s websites on how they identify their mission/vision and general approach:

PATH (Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship) Intl: “PATH Intl. accredits centers and certifies professionals so participants can experience the best and safest services in the EAS industry. [PATH works] to ensure universal recognition of professional equine-assisted services and the transformative impacts that enrich lives.”

AHCB (American Hippotherapy Certification Board):  “The American Hippotherapy Certification Board (AHCB) endorses the concept of voluntary, periodic certification by examination for all professionals who use hippotherapy in their practice”

EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association): “The Eagala Model provides an innovative solution that provides a unique space for an emotionally safe, hands-on experience for clients. With real-time feedback, clients are able to reach issues where traditional talk-based therapies leave off.”

University of Denver: ”The Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate program is open to mental health professionals and graduate students who want to enhance their clinical work through incorporating equine interactions in psychotherapy (equine-assisted therapy).”

The HERD Institute: “[The HERD Institute works] to create a global community of students and practitioners for Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy and Learning, committed to furthering the work of the predecessors in our field.”

The Natural Lifemanship Institute: NL envisions a world where connection is seen and felt in everything we do. We help people and animals form relationships to overcome stress and trauma through both the art and science of interpersonal neurobiology and attachment.

 

Here are the certifications offered through these 6 major programs…

 

Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning Certification Programs

 

 

PATH

 

Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMH) in partnership with a therapist

Therapeutic Riding (TR) Instructor

*Therapeutic Driving Instructor

*Interactive Vaulting Instructor

 

AHCB

 

AHCB Hippotherapy Certification

 

EAGALA

 

Mental Health Professional Certification

Equine Specialist Certification

Other Professional Certification

 

University of Denver

 

Equine Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate 

(a one time process; not technically a certification)

 

Herd Institute

 

Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy Certification

Equine Facilitated Learning – Level 1

Equine Facilitated Learning – Level 2

As you can see, none of the programs are exactly alike. What each one offers varies quite a bit depending on the specific population they serve and their own sense of what is necessary and valuable for those wanting to enter the field. Nonetheless, we’ve tried to distill down the distinguishing aspects.  We hope it is helpful! 

*Moving forward in this article we will only reference the Equine Specialist and Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certification as it relates to PATH because these are the certifications most of our students are interested in when comparing them to NL. 

 

 

Who is eligible for these programs?

 

PATH

 

No education level is required to be a Therapeutic Riding Instructor or the equine expert in partnership with a therapist (mental health, occupational, physical, speech, etc.)

 

AHCB

 

Licensed or certified to practice as a:

Physical therapist,

physical therapist assistant,

occupational therapist,

occupational therapist assistant,

or speech and language pathologist

*one year of full time or the equivalent (2,000 hours) experience in this field is required

 

EAGALA

 

*Mental Health Professionals 

*Equine Professionals 

*must be partnered

A third option is available for other students or professionals (must be a third partner to MH and ES)

 

University of Denver

 

Mental Health Professionals 

Mental Health Graduate Students

 

Herd Institute

 

Mental Health professionals

Life coaches

Educators

Organizational Leaders 

Trainers

Human Resource Professionals

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Mental Health professionals

Life Coaches

Educators

Equine Professionals

Non-MH Therapists like PT, OT, etc.

Alternative Healing Practitioners

Anyone interested in trauma-informed practice (medical professionals, corporate, HR, etc)

The difference from program to program on who is eligible for training depends on program philosophy as well as training content – while some programs prefer to specialize in only training mental health professionals or other licensed therapists, others have expanded to include any professional who is equipped to work with people in a healing or learning format, and their training content reflects these decisions. 

Most programs seek candidates who are already a helping or learning professional and are qualified to counsel. Then the training offered is in how to incorporate horses into these services.  Note that there are only a couple programs who seek to certify equine professionals to co-facilitate with a practitioner. 

When searching for a program, it can be helpful to first find your profession in the list above – any program that doesn’t list your profession is not well equipped to prepare you for the work, and any program claiming to train a variety of practitioners likely offers quite a bit of substance in their teaching, working to create competence no matter your background. 

How are their trainings and certification requirements offered?

 

PATH

 

In-person + online exam

 

AHCB

 

Blended (online and in person) + online exam

 

EAGALA

 

In-person (a short webinar is watched prior to in-person training)

 

University of Denver

 

Blended (online and in person)

 

Herd Institute

 

Blended (online and in person)

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Blended (online and in person)

Fully Online

Learning to offer quality equine assisted services requires a blend of theory and practice, in the chart above you can see that each program has its own way of making learning possible for a variety of candidates. Online programs offer flexibility and time to digest learning, and in-person learning gives participants time to practice and experience the process.  

As you can see, Natural Lifemanship has the only fully online certification program at this time, but it’s important to know there is still a significant amount of hands-on practice that occurs. The difference is it is done at home with horses you have access to personally, and is supported by video consultations and review so you never have to leave home. 

When searching for a program, consider your personal learning style, and how you might best digest the information presented at a training.

What are the general requirements for each certification process?

 

PATH

 

TR: 

Membership

Portfolio

Video demonstration

Standards Exam & Certification Exam

TR practice hours

TR workshop

ESMH:

Membership

ESMH workshop

Horsemanship Skills Test

20 hours Equine education

ESMH practice hours

 

AHCB

 

Introduction to Equine Skills Online Course

American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) Level I and II equine skills and treatment principle courses (in-person)

25 hours of one-on-one direct patient treatment

Must be experienced and comfortable with horses and can ride safely and independently at the walk and trot. 

Certification Exam

 

EAGALA

 

Pre-req webinar

Fundamentals training (5 days in-person) 

Membership

Professional Portfolio

Exam

 

University of Denver

 

Online course (10 months)

3 Residential Workshops 

Supervised Client Work

50 hours additional training outside of DU

 

Herd Institute

 

For EFP: 

Online modules

Live webinars

In-person practicums 

Supervision

personal therapy 

20 hours Equine education

Clinical practice

For each EFL level:

Online modules

In-person intensive

Mentoring

Practice hours (L2 only)

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Fundamentals training (8 weeks online, 36 CE’s )

Intensive Training (15 weeks online, 62 CE’s)

Optional Practicums (5 days in-person)

At least 28 hours of group and individual consultation and mentoring

Video Submissions and Feedback

60 Client Hours/Practice

Membership

There is wide variation in what each program offers in terms of learning, and requires in terms of certification – it is very worthwhile to spend some time exploring the ins and outs of these requirements, and to consider your current skill set so you can decide which program will best prepare you.  

Ultimately, the requirements reflect the philosophies of each program – you can see the question “What is necessary for someone to offer EAS competently and ethically?” being addressed in each column.  Every program has its own definition of what it takes to do this work well. Which definition you align with is a very personal choice.  

Whether you would like a short training process that offers tools for your toolbox, or a longer process that offers theory and individual mentorship and support while encouraging personal development – you will ultimately be the one deciding!

How long does it take to get certified?

Here is the general length of time it takes from beginning to certified, keeping in mind that for programs requiring practice hours and mentoring, timing can vary.

 

PATH

 

Varies widely depending on experience

ESMH practice hours

 

AHCB

 

Varies widely depending on experience

 

EAGALA

 

5 days plus exam and portfolio

 

University of Denver

 

10 months, on scheduled dates

 

Herd Institute

 

EFP: minimum 1 year, semi-self paced

EFL-L1,2: minimum 3 months each

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Varies widely; 6 months -2 years, semi-self paced

This chart and the one above it go hand-in-hand.  A more in-depth training process will take more time.  Embodiment takes time.  Again, only you can know how much time you have to give to this process, and ultimately, what you want to get out of it.  For some, a quick certification is preferred, while others want a deeper learning experience – and again, prior skill set should be taken into consideration.

Who will you be learning from in each program?

 

PATH

 

Local instructors

 

AHCB

 

Faculty

Staff

 

EAGALA

 

Local instructors

 

University of Denver

 

Professor Nina Eckholm Fry and guest presenters

 

Herd Institute

 

Founder Veronica Lac and Herd faculty

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Founders Tim Jobe, Bettina Shultz-Jobe as well as selection of 13 advanced certified practitioners and equine professionals

When learning something new, who you learn from makes all the difference – their own experiences, philosophy, and training background will inform the way their training unfolds. Learn about the instructors that teach each model – it is important that they have spent a good amount of time implementing services in the field, so their instruction is realistic and applicable to your needs.  

As you can see, several of the current training programs are still at least somewhat facilitated by the founders of that approach (potentially offering an undiluted presentation of information). Learning directly from the founders of any given approach is not always possible, but when it is, students benefit from the direct transmission of knowledge and experience as well as the founders’ experience teaching the material in ever-evolving ways.  

Learning from the founders while also learning from those who are certified and currently practicing the model can offer a well-rounded experience.  It is valuable to learn from and consult with more advanced professionals who have much experience learning and applying the material in their own lives and practices.  EAS can be applied in a myriad of ways depending on your scope of practice, client specialization, facilities, and horses, so it’s important to be able to choose a mentor or consultant with experience similar to yours. 

How many client hours are required in order to complete certification?

 

PATH

 

TR: 25 supervised teaching hours

ESMH: 60 hours

 

AHCB

 

25 hours

 

EAGALA

 

0 hours

 

University of Denver

 

50 hours

 

Herd Institute

 

EFP: 20 hours

EFL-L1: 0 hours

EFL-L2: 50 ‘practice’ hours

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

60 hours

Clearly, there is a wide difference in client hours needed to complete each program.  Why does this matter? In most professions, classroom learning can only take you so far – this is particularly true in a field that is decidedly “experiential” or hands-on.  

Applying classroom theory and knowledge to real world situations requires practice.  It takes time to understand how a process can be applied in a variety of situations (and equine assisted services always present a variety of situations!)  A certification process requiring plenty of practice time while still under consultation or evaluation is a process that values hands-on learning and respects the responsibility we take on when serving clients.

How many hours of support and guidance will I get in professional consultation or mentorship, learning from my teachers or peers in order to complete my certification?

 

PATH

 

TR:  Approximately 25 in-person mentorship hours (not included in certification costs)

ESMH:  0

 

AHCB

 

0

 

EAGALA

 

0

 

University of Denver

 

Ongoing during client hour practice (number of hours are not specified)

 

Herd Institute

 

EFP: 10 hours

EFL: 3 hours each level

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

8-11 hours individual

20 hours group

We all know practice is the best way to learn something new – and correct practice is the best way to learn to apply new learning correctly.  Requiring consultation hours means that while you are practicing you have access to your instructors for case consultation and reflection.  

The more guidance you can receive as you are applying your learning, the more likely you will be applying your learning correctly, competently, and ethically.  Not only will this make you a better practitioner, but it is better for your clients as well. 

Which program offers Continuing Education credits, and how are they offered?

 

PATH

 

Yes, in-person workshops

Conference

 

AHCB

 

Yes, in-person and online workshops and trainings

Conferences

 

EAGALA

 

Yes, in-person workshops

Conference

 

University of Denver

 

No

 

Herd Institute

 

Yes, occasional CE’s offered online and in person

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Yes

Online and in-person workshops and trainings

Online self-paced (over 500 hours of video library access w/ membership.  Many of these offer CE’s.)

In-person and online conferences

We are all always evolving – as we learn more, see more, and understand better – our approach to healing should adjust as well.  This is where continuing education comes in.  

All health practitioners are required to continue learning throughout their professional careers because new research and an evolution of thought is always emerging.  Most certification programs will require continuing education in order to maintain certification – and some programs offer ongoing learning they themselves have developed. 

Ongoing learning that is approved for official CEUs (continuing education units) or CE hours means that the learning content has been vetted and approved by a separate educational body – indicating a base level of quality.

What is the total cost of certification?

 

PATH

 

TR: $827 – $1370 depending on membership level + travel expenses  +

membership + mentorship costs

ESMH: $600 – $700 + travel expenses +  + testing costs +  membership +mentorship costs

 

AHCB

 

Level I and Level 2 combined :  $1935 – $2135 depending on membership level 

Online Test:  $380 – $480 depending on membership level

+Travel and lodging to two in-person trainings

 

EAGALA

 

$2500 + travel/lodging

$95 annually membership

 

University of Denver

 

$4800  + travel and lodging for 3 residential workshops

 

Herd Institute

 

EFP: $6500 + travel and lodging for two in-person trainings 

*EFL-L1: $1500 

*EFL-L2: $1500

* + travel and lodging for one in-person training

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

$3873 *for fully online (Choose Jumpstart Option and do consults with your co-facilitator)

**for blended options, prices will vary

This is probably the #1 question we are asked:  “How much does NL certification cost compared to the costs to be certified by _______ organization?”  Quite simply, it is terribly difficult to compare costs when the differences in each program are SO varied.  Since we know you are interested in offering high impact, ethical services to your clients, it’s important to consider much more than price alone.   

Just like the duration of training varies from program to program, so will the financial investment.  It is impossible to say the exact investment (except for the NL fully online track) because of all the variables present in each training program – for any blended program travel, lodging, and time away from work will be a factor, and most programs offer several tracks and levels of membership, of course, all having different costs.  As you explore the financial investment that is possible for you, consider the value of each certification process. 

Also, keep in mind that the costs associated with personalized support in the form of supervision, consultation, or mentorship are included in the costs you see in this chart for DU, The Herd Institute, and NL.  

PATH does require mentorship, but it is not included in the costs in the chart because the cost varies and the student is responsible for finding a mentor that will best meet their needs.  The Natural Lifemanship Institute has a team of carefully selected instructors and mentors with advanced training and experience applying our approach in a variety of situations. We take the guesswork out of finding a suitable mentor as several of our instructors are available to book for consultations right on our website. Personalized support is important to the process of embodied learning, so when choosing a certification program, it is worth considering how you will find the support you need.

The offerings are fairly different from program to program – consider not only what is feasible, but what kind of learning is worth your time and money, and the level of support and guidance you hope to have after online or in-person training. 

For a breakdown of the varied costs associated with NL certification,  this webinar offers a lot of insights.

What does it cost to keep my certification up to date?

 

PATH

 

TR: $95 + 20 CE hours every 2 years

ESMH: $100 for membership annually + 20 CE hours every 12 months

 

AHCB

 

This information is not available online.

 

EAGALA

 

$195 annually +

20 CE hours EAGALA approved CEs every 2 years

 

University of Denver

 

None, it is a one time certificate, not a renewable certification

 

Herd Institute

 

20 CE hours annually

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

$375 annually, includes 10 online CE hours, membership, and a listing in the Professional Directory

All of the top 6 programs offer an “ongoing certification” except for the University of Denver.  DU offers a one time certificate that does not require renewal.  This may seem like a benefit, however certification renewal is a way of promoting ethics and best practices in our field.  You will find this a necessary process in any health care profession – it is vitally important  to continue the growth and development of the field, as well as protect those who receive services.

Also, when considering certification renewal fees remember to consider the costs associated with continuing education requirements.  These costs can be quite high when you consider the cost for training, travel, lodging, and valuable time away from work.  

Also consider if this fee does more than simply renew your certification.  For example, NL certification fees include membership (more on that next) and a practitioner listing so that potential clients can find you.  Most importantly, you need not spend ANY additional money to get the CE’s needed to maintain certification.  In many cases, you may even be able to count our CE courses toward others licenses or certifications you are maintaining. 

Is there a membership offered and what benefits do I get for being a member?

 

PATH

 

$70-$190 annually

Networking

Discounts

Directory

Downloadable resources

Subscription to Strides magazine

 

AHCB

 

$55-$95 annually with the American Hippotherapy Association

Discounts

Directory

“Find a Therapist” listing

Access to ScienceDirect Article and Journals

Members Only resources

Subscription to Hippotherapy Magazine

 

EAGALA

 

Networking

Monthly Support Calls

Directory 

Resource Library

 

University of Denver

 

No Membership

 

Herd Institute

 

$150 annually 

Networking

Online discussion forum 

Discounted supervision

Discounts on workshops

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Not every program offers a membership option, and oftentimes membership offerings are limited.  However, a robust membership and community is incredibly important in a new, quickly evolving, and smaller field.  

NL offers a free membership as part of the certification process. We know the value — both to you and to your clients — of being lifelong learners and we want you to have access to our entire suite of tools and courses as a certification student or certified professional.   

At times, this work can be isolating – it is a unique niche within the world of mental health, therapy, growth, and learning – finding safe and structured places to connect, learn, exchange ideas, and continue growing is invaluable and will make it much more likely that you will be supported and successful in this new endeavor!

Are there advanced certifications offered if I want to deepen my learning or specialize?

 

PATH

 

TR: Advanced and Master Level Certification is available

ESMH: None

 

AHCB

 

Yes, advanced testing and certification is available

 

EAGALA

 

Yes, advanced training offered

 

University of Denver

 

None

 

Herd Institute

 

Coming soon

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

Advanced training and certification available

While basic certification may be your greatest concern at this point, it can be helpful in the selection process to consider which programs also offer advanced training and support should you decide to pursue it.  Not all do.  After completion of basic certification, most practitioners will feel competent to begin seeing clients – however, you will likely find that clients bring different issues to sessions and being able to dive more deeply into specialized issues will only enhance your toolbox.  Programs offering advanced training and/or certification will not only support you in diving more deeply into a specialization or specific area of interest, but will also support you in more deeply understanding the model or approach itself.

*PATH does offer several certifications, but they don’t offer advanced training or certification (that we could find) in the ESMH or TR certification tract.  Every one of these organizations offer conferences as a wonderful way to specialize and deepen your learning, even if they don’t officially offer advanced training or certification.

What is the minimum amount I can spend to begin the training process and see if a program is a good fit for me before signing up for certification?

 

PATH

 

$600 for ESMH: 3 day workshop + travel expenses

 

AHCB

 

$950 – $1050 for 3 day workshop + one day online learning +travel expenses

 

EAGALA

 

$2500 for Fundamentals training + travel expenses

 

University of Denver

 

$1600 for a semester + travel expenses

 

Herd Institute

 

$6,500 EFP or $1,500 EFL (or payment plan) + travel expenses

 

Natural Lifemanship Institute

 

$425 for Fundamentals – foundations track online only (30 CE credits)

For many of us, taking that first leap into training can feel daunting.  Having a lower barrier to entry can make it that much easier to explore the different options that exist and choose for yourself.  Some programs have ways to engage with their training material that is less expensive, while some require a financial commitment to the full program up front.   Each journey will look a little different, and ultimately the deciding factor will be the value of what you are receiving.

 

Ready to explore certification for yourself?

So, there it is, a side by side breakdown of the requirements and benefits of the certification process for each of the major training institutions based in the United States.  Of course, this information serves only as a beginning point to help you narrow down which program might best suit your needs.  

Further exploration would be beneficial to gauge the values, principles, and goals of each training program  – because ultimately, the program you certify with should feel like a professional “home”. 

When you are ready to get certified, we will be honored to join you on the journey and be your partner at every stage of your growth and exploration. Learn more about NL Certification and select the path that’s right for you. And if you’re not sure where to start, take our quiz for some guidance. We look forward to supporting your learning!

Introducing the Jobe Treatment Ratio for Equine Assisted Services

Introducing the Jobe Treatment Ratio for Equine Assisted Services

Evolving the Role of Equines 

Many of us on the Natural Lifemanship team have been working with equines for decades. We’ve spent much of that time preparing mustangs for domestic life, training horses for ranch work, and partnering with them for equine assisted services.  

Long ago, we moved away from a traditional utilitarian approach to horses, and toward a perspective that seeks to engage horses without the need for fear, domination, and control. This launched the unique approach of Natural Lifemanship (NL) that has flipped the script on how equines participate in healing services.

 

Understanding Equines as Sentient Partners

Natural Lifemanship developed a way of thinking about how the equine is involved in therapeutic settings that includes the equine’s unique contributions as an individual.  

Not all equines are the same, just like all people are not the same.  

This consideration, of how each participant in a session contributes to the stability or instability of that session, is necessary for providing ethical treatment.  Neither the equine, nor any facilitators, are exempt.

 

Get to Know the Treatment Team

Today we are sharing what we have named the Jobe Treatment Ratio —a framework for considering all the individuals in a therapeutic session, including the equine.  

The Jobe Treatment Ratio is an attempt at providing a more concrete way to conceptualize the complex fluid relational development between all those involved in a given session, and to recognize how that relationship determines the level of care the team can provide to clients. This model is still oversimplified in many ways, but hopefully provides a snapshot of the complex relational interactions that are flowing through every moment. 

For simplicity, this model assumes a session involving a licensed or certified co-facilitator, equine professional, horse, and client. These roles may differ in reality and therefore the model can be adjusted to help you conceptualize any specific situation. 

When you think about the four individuals involved, then you can start to separate, on a simplistic level, who is there to receive services (client) and who is there to provide services (facilitators).

Facilitators engage in months, if not years, of training and supervision in order to offer services to clients ethically. A client and their facilitators often, either formally or informally, arrive at a social contract of expectations for services, sometimes called an informed consent.  This agreement sets a framework for guiding the professionals in decision-making throughout the process of providing services.

Hopefully, it is clear that the equine professional and therapist are providing services and the

client is receiving. This scenario would create a 2:1 treatment ratio for a session, two individuals providing services for one.

 

Where Does the Horse Fit In?

Equine Assisted Services are unique – involving not only the professionals and the client, but one or more equines as well.  

So what about the horse in this scenario? On which side of this ratio does the horse fit? 

A horse is not developed in the same way humans are and does not have to commit to a social contract in order to provide or receive services. And yet they are part of this interaction. The question then becomes, are they there to provide services or receive services? 

Well, the answer is complex and fluid from individual to individual—and truly, moment to moment. As humans, we determine our ability to provide services according to the guidance of professional structures and assessments we have created and maintained as a society—as well as in assessing our own personal development. We attempt to determine the ability of equines in similar ways. The development of each horse and human will determine whether or not they are mostly providing services or mostly receiving services. As the moment and environment change, so too do the abilities of each individual involved. This is the complex nature of relational interactions. 

Each individual offering services requires a foundation for understanding the ins and outs of a session, knowing what is expected of them, and having a strong level of communication with other partners.

If the social contract is that the EP and co-facilitator are there to provide services for the

client and involve the horse in that process, then it stands to reason that the horse could be part of the treatment team. Proper development of the horse’s thinking skills are necessary for him to be a valid partner on the treatment team. This is not easy, but is possible. 

It is important to ask, can this horse consent to participation? Can this horse move freely, think freely, and communicate freely?  Can this horse understand the expectations of the session?  If you can answer yes to these questions (and others), it is possible for this horse to be a partner in the treatment team.

 

An Ideal Ratio for Treatment

If the answers above are “yes,”  then we have the possibility of a 3:1 treatment ratio, where 3 individuals (EP, co-facilitator, and horse) are supporting and providing services for 1 client. 

Vital to the quality of services that are offered is the relational development between these three members of the treatment team.  This relationship cannot be picked up and put down at will. Conscious effort and ongoing team development are necessary.

The model below for the 3:1 ratio represents just one of an infinite number of ways this could look. If we have done significant work with EP, co-facilitator, and horse, then they can all work in unison to serve the client and you have an understanding and communication about how they are achieving this in every moment. 

Yes, we contend that equines can develop to this level. It takes intentional practice, building an equine’s ability to maintain his sensitivity and think for himself, which is only possible when we let go of outdated ideas of domination and control in human-horse interactions.

Notice in the diagram below, the quality of therapeutic or “safe” space made possible when the horse, equine professional and co-facilitator are well-developed as a team.  Maintaining connection in a well established relationship takes little energy, while building connection in a newer relationship can require much more attunement, focus, and regulation.  

In a well developed ratio of 3:1, the treatment team has significant energy free to devote to the client, rather than diverting it to support each other during a session.

 

 

When the Horse is Not a Part of the Treatment Team

We would say that it is more common that equines in these settings have not yet developed enough to easily create and sustain connection with others while maintaining their own autonomy. Therefore, they are unable to hold the same understanding as the EP and co-facilitator in a therapeutic setting.

If, as is common, the horse has not yet developed this skill set, then a closer representation would be a 2:2 treatment ratio. With a 2:2 treatment ratio, the EP and co-facilitator are having to extend themselves a bit more to provide support for the client as well as the horse in session. 

The 2:2 model below shows one way that this could look. Notice the shift in energy and focus particularly for what the Equine Professional can offer the client, as well as what the horse can offer the client.

 

In a Less Developed Team

Finally, if the humans in the treatment team are not well developed (either personally or relationally) we may devolve into a situation where each member believes they are having to support and offer treatment to everyone else involved. Then the situation may more closely resemble the dreaded 1:3 ratio. 

At this ratio, we are doing our clients a real disservice. Below is one way this could be represented. It is referred to as the model of the 1:3 ratio. 

Keep in mind this is one way this situation could evolve. There are many other possibilities, including if the co-facilitator is less experienced working experientially, working with horses, or working in a team. Their energies may be less predictable as well.

 

 

You can also see how the quality of the relationship between the members of the treatment team affects each member’s ability to offer support to the client. Notice how it affects the ability of the team to create a safe space for the client. The cohesiveness, personal development, and team communication present in a treatment team vastly influences the quality of services offered.

 

Assess Your Team

Insert your treatment team into this model and determine what your development and percentages might be. Notice which human-horse combinations put you at a 3:1 treatment ratio and which combinations put you at a 2:2 ratio. Also, consider scenarios that would put you at 1:3 and work on growing out of those. 

This should help you and your team grow together towards that ideal 3:1 ratio. Perhaps in exploring these ratios, you and your team will pinpoint a few of the areas that may need more work outside of the session. 

Also consider how things change (dramatically!) if you include more than one equine, or more than one client.  This is why, ethically, it may not make sense for a facilitator to work without an EP—or for only one or two professionals to offer services to big groups of people and/or equines.  Imagine the complex web of energy necessary for providing connection and a safe space to a whole family, group, or herd!  

Each facilitator, equine professional, equine, and client will come with their own histories, tendencies, and needs. Hopefully, the professionals also come with a clear self-awareness and understanding of their equine’s abilities and limitations so as to create an ethical therapeutic environment.

While this concept of ratios is simplified, it should make the ideas adaptable to whatever scenario you find yourself in, helping you and your team gain greater awareness of where your energy is going during a session and how you can all develop toward a ratio that better supports your clients.

 

Learn more in Our Upcoming Webinar

Tanner Jobe will be hosting a webinar on August 3, 2022, at 5pm CST where he explores the ratios illustrated above, and answers your questions. This is a great opportunity to dive more deeply into the concepts presented here.  Sign up here.

 

 

We are Preparing a Place for You

We are Preparing a Place for You

“We believe in the important work of Natural Lifemanship and have been coming together in prayer about how we can help you expand. Could we help you get a place for your headquarters?”

A place.  

A gift of place. . .

This was the beginning of a conversation Tim and I had with Dawn and Ron Robson, with That’s the Dream Farm, over a year ago.   This was the beginning of the promise of land––of a place to shape and form and transform us––all of us.  Here a powerful partnership and kinship began.  

These words put into motion a sacred promise for, and to, our growing community, because place builds people.  Place builds tribes.  The longing for and love of place is profoundly human, and akin to our most basic need for belonging.

 

We Had No Specific Place   

 

For years people have told us that they wanted to come to a training at “The Natural Lifemanship place.”  

The problem? We have never had just one place.  

Through the years over 50 different people/organizations have hosted our trainings.  They have cared for us, contributed to the accessibility and furthering of this powerful work, and rich relationships have been built.  Indeed, many of my closest friends were met through these partnerships.  

However, in 2020 much of our training was moved online as we pivoted during the Pandemic.  This allowed for a depth and breadth of learning not possible before. 

The shift to online learning was great. . . mostly.  

As more and more connections and communications were made virtually, I felt untethered at times.  We found ourselves longing for an NL home like never before.  In our increasingly virtual world, we learned that place matters now more than ever.  

More than ever.

Not just any kind of place but one we can call home—and one we can build with you in mind.

(By the way, regional trainings at our amazing partner sites will certainly continue.)

 

Place Matters

 

Intuitively, we know that place matters, that the actual land on which we stand shapes us and that we shape it.  Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Bliss, says that “Where we are affects who we are.” He has spent many years researching how our actual location affects our creativity, our spirituality, and our happiness.  

We find that at certain places time is expansive and connection is all that matters.  These places change us and gift us the inspiration needed to create; a work of art, a new relationship, a new life.  We are inspired to heal and guide others as they do the same.  

The wide open spaces in the Panhandle of Texas, the Grand Canyon, Hanging Lakes in Colorado, the waters of Juniper Run, the castles of Germany, and the mountains of Austria are some of these places for me––sacred ground that has the power to transcend our relationship with time, with ourselves, and with the Divine.  

I believe sometimes the very ground calls out “come here and be transformed.” These are the places that tether us to each other, to this life, to those who came before us, and those who will follow.  

We need places like this.

 

Place Deepens Connection 

 

Tim often tells the story of when his oldest daughter moved to Utah and he had not yet seen where she was living.  His mind was not at peace until he visited her and saw the places in which she moved on a daily basis.  He needed to see and feel her home.  He felt uneasy until he could place her when he thought of her.  

I too have felt this with our children. Sending our kids to school during the pandemic was just gut-wrenching, partially because we could not see where they would be spending their day.  

Both of our children have done better with separation when they have seen where we are working.  Our little girl once said with tears in her eyes, “but I don’t know where you’ll be!,” as I left for work.  Our internal sense of connection and safety is stronger when we can place others.

Eric Weiner cites research done in Finland that found that 82% of phone conversations contain some version of the question “Where are you?”  If I’m on a zoom call in a new environment, people almost always ask me “Where are you?”

Why do people ask this?  Why does it matter?

Why do people ask to train at “The Natural Lifemanship place?”

I think it’s because we can better connect when we can place the person with whom we are seeking connection.  For example, I find it harder to connect with a person who has a fake or blurred out background on zoom.  By contrast, at our virtual Grief and Love conference we wanted a very intimate, community experience so I met with attendees in our living room. 

We are not just individual beings wandering the world, but connected creatures existing in a specific context.  Our context matters.  Where we are, how we connect with the environment around us, the places that we belong to—all influence who we are, how we feel, and how we connect with each other.

Connection is predicated on finding our place and allowing ourselves to be placed.  It is our hope that moving forward, as an organization, you can always place us.

   

So, a Place Was Purchased

 

After a ton of searching, That’s the Dream Ranch, LLC closed on 73 acres just outside of Brenham, Texas in November of 2021.  The most magical creek you have ever seen splits and borders the property.  The main meeting place, with antique furniture and a wrap-around porch, overlooks a lovely pond and a hay pasture.  The covered arena is straight up dreamy and is overlooked by a conference room, full of windows and too many chandeliers.  A quaint 12 bedroom Inn is nestled up against the creek, and all I can say is that I am in love.  All kinds of intelligent and majestic trees create little spaces all over the property that call us to come, and sit, and be. 

However, there is plenty of work to be done, and so construction has been initiated to create a place for you–– a sacred and fertile place for healing, growth, change, and transcendence.  This place will be all about experience and all about home––the kind of home you carry in your heart, that connects you to your core self–– a self that is part of the landscape you occupy, part of a larger body committed to making the world a better place. 

Natural Lifemanship is a community with roots, and now we get to build a home.  A place where you can find us, be with us. A place where we belong together.

 

The Healing of Place

 

Place has the power to do all kinds of amazing things, but with power comes great responsibility.  

As clinicians, our personal healing is the foundation for doing healing work with others––the same is true of the land.  Place has the power to be the beginning of new life if our love of place is fierce, so fierce that we will do the hard work of restoration.  The hard work of healing. 

With the help of That’s the Dream Ranch and in partnership with Leopold Land Management and the National Resources Conservation Service (a USDA agency) a major transformation is underway––demolition or repurposing of the things that no longer serve us, pruning, planting, and lots and lots of nurture.  We are committed to the messiness and the absolute beauty of healing.  We are committed to you.   

At Natural Lifemanship, it has always been about a way of being in the world. About principles and values.  

Therefore, we are building a place, a home, with the same intentions.  Our place—guided by our values where connection is seen and felt in everything we do.

And in our place, we are preparing a place for you.

 

Save the Date!  

The Natural Lifemanship Conference “Sacred Landscapes: Honoring the Places Within Us and Around Us” will take place April 12th – 15th in 2023. Registration opens soon and we hope you can join us.

 

 

Meet Your NL Membership Guide: Clair Gose

Meet Your NL Membership Guide: Clair Gose

Our membership circle is growing—so we found a guide to help lead the way. 

Meet Clair Gose, a lifelong horse woman born and raised in Texas, who combines her love for horses, people, and organization in her new role as Natural Lifemanship’s Membership Services and Event Coordinator. 

We recently sat down with Clair and reflected on her new position with NL, her experience in working with people and horses, and what it means for her to lead our vibrant community.

 

Getting to Know Clair Gose

 

How did you come to know Natural Lifemanship? 

My sister, Kate Naylor, has been part of the Natural Lifemanship team for about a decade. She spoke often about NL’s unique principles, which gave me a lot to think about when it came to my own relationships with horses. 

Because of her experience and my own desire to form more connected relationships with horses, I took the Fundamentals course and started incorporating it in all of my work. Prior to joining NL, I was an equine sports massage therapist and worked with traumatized horses at an equine rescue. 

I was able to successfully apply the principles I learned, with the horses I worked with and experienced firsthand the value of NL’s approach. 

What was your knowledge of equine assisted services prior to working with NL?

While I had worked with horses in the past, I had never worked with them in a psychotherapy or learning realm or as a mental health practitioner. As a Reiki practitioner, I focused more on body work and energy work—and my perspective was purely from the physical. 

Once I delved deep enough into the physical realm, I was able to understand the impact of emotional health on the physical body and used this when focusing primarily on the horses. 

What is your role with NL? 

My formal role is event coordinator and membership services. This encompasses my love of people, horses, and organization. Before I got into my career with horses I was doing production coordinating for film and television in New York City. 

I was always drawn to roles that revolved around organization. I love taking a big mess of information, straightening it up, and telling everyone where they need to be and when. 

One of my roles with NL will be coordinating the trainings and the conference coming up in March.  (Save the Date!  We’ll be together March 22nd – 25th.)

Perhaps my favorite role is membership services. Membership has grown so much that there needs to be one contact between Natural Lifemanship and everyone who wants to learn the process. 

My job is to guide new and existing members towards the resources designed to deepen their own personal and professional work. 

How does your previous work with people and love of connection play into this new role?

My hope is to get to know our existing members who have grown so close to the NL team and open new connections to those looking to join. This is also a great opportunity for me to come in as someone who is still learning the process and connect with others who are also learning the process. 

I am not too far ahead of the new people and so I can be a direct guide, learning along the way and helping people to get closer to where they want to go. 

What’s your favorite part about this role? 

Working with the incredible Natural Lifemanship team! It honestly makes me emotional because I’ve never experienced this level of support from colleagues. This feels like a place where I can really grow, and help others grow as well. 

What does the work of NL mean to you?

Natural Lifemanship feels like the most ethical way to build relationships with horses. They seek their consent and take into consideration their thoughts and learning abilities instead of forcing them into unwanted situations. Everything I’ve learned from NL puts a different lens on the way I interact with the horses I know and encourages me to do better.

 

Lightning Round 

 

What did you want to be when you grow up? An actor or a pastry chef. 

If you could go to any city, state or country, where would you go? France—right on the Mediterranean.

What do you believe about people? Everyone has a form of genius that they contribute to the world. 

What does your ideal day look like? Get up early…have coffee….there’s always going to be a book involved…eggs benedict for brunch…time by the pool…a ride somewhere…and a steak and pasta dinner with red wine and a movie. 

Want to become an NL member and walk with Clair and the rest of the NL team? 

We’d love to welcome you. 

Visit our membership page for more information or contact us or schedule a customer service call now and we’ll help guide you.

 

 

Just Released: Nourished by Meg Kirby

Just Released: Nourished by Meg Kirby

We are so pleased to announce that our Natural Lifemanship team has been published again! 

A lovely new resource is now available for a variety of practitioners – Nourished: Horses, Animals & Nature in Counselling, Psychotherapy & Mental Health, edited by Meg Kirby, is out now!

 

 

Not only do we share our lives with nature and animals, they are an integral and influential part of our well-being. Within the pages of Nourished is wisdom collected from respected professionals across the globe (of whom we are honored to be a part!) on how we can intentionally incorporate the natural and animal world into mental health, wellness, and personal growth.

 

Working With Horses to Develop Secure Attachment

 

Natural Lifemanship’s CEO and co-founder Bettina Shultz-Jobe and  I are thrilled to have contributed a chapter in Nourished titled “Working With Horses to Develop Secure Attachment”. In this chapter we offer theory as well as a case study discussing how attachment wounds can be brought into awareness, gently explored, and healed through authentic engagement with equines.  

We ventured not only into the cognitive aspects of attachment, but the embodied ones as well – for much of our relational patterns are held in the body. As this NL community knows, being in relationship with horses is a unique opportunity to transform ways of being, even when deeply held in the unconscious body.

If you are a practitioner in the field of equine assisted services, this is a chapter, and a book, not to be missed!

 

Psst…when you order the book through the links in this article, we earn a small affiliate commission. This transparency is important to us, but since we contributed to the book, you know we recommend it whole-heartedly!

 

The Evolution of NL and What it Means for You

The Evolution of NL and What it Means for You

Natural Lifemanship® has evolved—and our new branding reflects these changes.  It is my deepest hope that these changes stir a transformation in you.  For decades, we have shared our unique principles with clients and practitioners around the world, teaching the power of connected relationships and watching with awe and wonder as our world heals and grows one relationship at a time.  While our practice and teaching is ever-evolving, moving with each new shift in the universe, and adjusting to the impact of those shifts on the mental health and wellness of our communities, the platform from which we shared our work became outdated. Our website did not offer enough guidance for professionals to find the tools and trainings that would best meet their needs. Although many have found what they needed, and began a journey with us, we often received feedback that the process of committing was time-consuming and confusing.  This has changed.   The breath that comes into my body when I say that is lovely, so I’ll say it again.  THIS. HAS. CHANGED!

Our Tagline is an Invitation 

As we move into this exciting chapter, we invite you to “walk with us.” Our tagline acts as an open invitation for those who wish to build their life and practice on a foundation of essential principles. With a principle-based process, the journey of learning is ongoing – we will walk with you every step of the way. Our trainings are designed to meet you where you are and guide you to where you want to go – there is no “one size fits all” approach. Our seasoned trainers are ready to support your unique personal and professional growth.  

Our Logo is a Symbol of Who We Are, Together 

Developing a logo is a process of exploring one’s identity – when we began creating our new logo, the NL team members each saw something different.  It was intended to be a hoof, but the image allowed us to also see a thumb print, ripples in the water, as well as a representation of movement in general. The abstract nature of our logo is intentional – we have created something we hope you will identify with, no matter where you are on your journey.   Whether you see the hoofprint of the remarkable equines with whom we share this process, or the ripples of healing that we as practitioners initiate in our field of work, or something else entirely…we do not just welcome you to NL, we are building our organization with you in mind.

The Look and Feel is Grounding

The earth tones we have incorporated into our brand are reflective of our love of and belonging in nature, and our continual pursuit of a grounded approach to healing. The feel of our new site is a reminder of the landscape that shelters us, the plants and animals with whom we share our lives, and in particular, the equines with whom we have the privilege of being partnered.  We are committed to continuing our evolution – to always growing so that we are better prepared to nurture your growth.  Together, we can create ripples that spread far and wide.  

We Have a Path for You

When you visit our site, you will see a deep commitment to the Equine Assisted Services (EAS) field and an opportunity for you to start or continue your EAS journey. A quiz has been designed to help you better understand your needs and how Natural Lifemanship can support you.  We’ve designed an interactive experience on our training page where you can choose one of four designated training paths, or create your own.  Our certification path is simplified and clear, and NL membership is offering more community and live contact and support from our trainers (including Tim and me) than ever before. Additionally, we’ve included videos and testimonials throughout the site to explain what sets us apart, and why that matters to your life and practice.  See our evolution for yourself and learn how we can support you on your own unique and sacred journey.  We are so honored to get to walk with you!