About a year ago Dr. Heather Gaedt and Coach Aaron Smith began volunteering at Heavenly Horse Haven, an equine rescue ranch located in Anza. These two professionals used the volunteering to begin a journey that would culminate in being the co-sponsors of this event and in the formation of their business, Miracle Ranch, where they use Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to help individuals and families heal from their own emotional struggles. The couple reported last weekend’s American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals event was a joint effort by them and Gina Perrin founder of Heavenly Horse Haven to bring the community together to learn about how they can help at-risk horses in their community.
Gaedt and Smith are certified in the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning. In this model, the participants or clients learn about themselves by participating in activities with the horses and then discussing their thoughts, beliefs, etc. about what just happened with the horses.
In this type of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy the client or clients are on the ground with the horses and no riding is involved. Gaedt and Smith work as a team with Gaedt being the mental health specialist and Smith being the equine specialist of the team. Gaedt reports that Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, seems to help clients work through emotional issues in less time than traditional office therapy. The horses seem to mirror back and help the clients identify what is happening in their lives.
During their demonstration of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy at the April 23 event, a young lady volunteered to participate and she was given the freedom to move around the arena with four horses. In this type of therapy, the horses are considered another professional and they are free to choose to respond to the humans and other horses in the sessions. During the demonstration the young lady touched one horse more often than the others, and when she processed with Gaedt and Smith she reported that this horse represented herself. After the demonstration the young lady said, “I felt a strong connection with the horses, it took the human element out of the therapy and made it more honest and real”
The Help A Horse Day Event also included stories about horses that had found the healing sanctuary of Heavenly Horse Haven. Gina Perrin, founder of Heavenly Horse Haven, told a story about “Roxanne” while her handler Amy brought her into the arena. “Roxanne” had never been out of her 10-foot by 10-foot pen when she arrived at the ranch. No one had touched her and she had been neglected in a big way said Perrin. “Amy became Roxanne’s bridge over troubled water” and this story was told while the 1970s song by Simon and Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was played.
The event had over 150 in attendance, which included many people who volunteer at the facility. Angela Johnson and Gerri Lyn Mellin were working the sign in table and selling raffle tickets to help raise funds for the facility. Johnson said that she loves helping at the ranch and being with the horses. The ASPCA’s Help a Horse Day is part of the 150th Anniversary celebration of the ASPCA and the contest includes $100,000 in grant prizes, which the grand prize is $25,000. This event ensures that the local horse rescue might benefit from receiving one of the prizes.
For more information on Heavenly Horse Haven go to www.heavenlyhorsehaven.org and for information on Equine Assisted Psychotherapy contact, Coach Aaron Smith at (760) 600-0059 or go to the website www.miraclehorseranch.com.