Horses Are Helping Humans In Haleiwa

Steve Murray
Wednesday - June 15, 2011
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People have a affinity for animals, and a Haleiwa equine specialist is hoping to use that natural connection to treat people with emotional and behavioral issues.

Carina Cooper, owner of Hawaii Equine Assisted Reflection & Therapy at Sunset Ranch, believes that by working with powerful and gentle horses, people can be taught to release the fear and anxiety caused by abuse, depression, traumatic stress and other ailments.

The program opened May 1 and is based on the model from the nonprofit Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association “to address the need for resources, education and professionalism” in the field. The group has 360 programs in place worldwide.

The experiential program differs from other horse-based therapy in that the clients never ride the animals. “We do horse-centered activities on the ground, and we have a mental health specialist paired with an equine professional,” said Cooper. “Together they come up with activities according to their treatment plan.”

Equine specialists “must have at least 6,000 hours hands-on work with horses, along with over 100 hours of continuing education,” states the EAGLA website.

The mental health professional also must follow regional laws and be licensed in the specialty.

Because horses are herd animals, Cooper said, they are particularly good at working with people. “Horses are able to make a big impact. They are very good at their nonverbal communication. They communicate so well within their herd, and that herd dynamic works very well in the arena. They act out what they see and feel from the clients so it’s like they are reflecting what is going on in the person.”

Cooper and colleague Bonnie Cordeiro accept referrals as well as people who sign up individually. Fee is $150 for a 50-minute session. Call 561-4184.

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