Connecting with horses to reconnect with life.

Joe, a 40-year-old Army Veteran, was suffering from crippling posttraumatic stress after his patriotic service to our country in Afghanistan. Joe suffered from flashbacks, anger issues, and feeling disconnected from his family. His world was crumbling, as he could no longer work, attend school, or provide for his family. Joe refused to go to traditional office-based therapy for fear of feeling judged. 

Today, Joe has regained control over his life and has made it his mission to help others. Joe’s recovery and improvement was not the result of traditional office-based therapy. Joe is healthy because of a special relationship with a horse named Duke and a process called equine assisted counseling. 

Duke is an expert at reading and responding to the most subtle changes in human body language and emotional state. Through their relationship, Duke helped Joe feel safe to process his war experiences in ways beyond just talking and learn new ways of coping with his memories from Afghanistan. During his time with Duke, Joe was able to accept his struggles and feel empowered in managing his posttraumatic stress. 

Joe is a real man, but he also represents millions of Veterans haunted by emotional trauma. As many as 30% of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans suffer from posttraumatic stress, depression, or traumatic brain injury. Furthermore, Veterans commit suicide at an alarming rate of 22 each day. Many of these individuals go untreated, avoid traditional therapies, or drop out of treatment prematurely. 

You can help make sure that people like Joe have access to this unique and powerful form of healing.

Equine Connection Counseling, PLLC (ECC) is an equine assisted counseling practice in Cleburne, TX. Founded by Dr. Hallie Sheade in April 2014, ECC works with a special herd of therapy horses to provide counseling and psychotherapy to military veterans like Joe, at-risk youth, trauma survivors, and more. We work with our fiscal sponsor, S.T.E.P.S. With Horses, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to provide mental health services. Through our partnership we are able to provide our services at little or no cost to our clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

Equine assisted counseling is a form of counseling that is effective for people who do not respond to or avoid traditional-office based mental health therapies – particularly if the treatment emphasizes the connection between horse and human rather than riding activities. Unlike traditional counseling, equine assisted counseling takes place in a natural setting among horses. Our clients work with a therapeutic team consisting of a qualified mental health professional, a certified equine specialist, and carefully selected therapy horses. The relationship with the horse becomes a safe space for our clients to explore, reflect, grow, and heal. Some of these benefits include:

  • Feeling calmer and happier both during and outside counseling sessions
  • Improving self-esteem and self-empowerment
  • Developing more fulfilling and satisfying relationships

Our clinical assessments have shown that 82% of Veterans with posttraumatic stress and 90% of child clients improve. Equine assisted counseling has higher improvement and attendance rates as compared to traditional office-based therapies. 

Over the past 3+ years, ECC has provided over 4000 individual equine assisted counseling sessions to more than 200 clients.  For the past 2 years, ECC has had a waiting list that averages 80 clients – most of whom are in need of financial assistance to begin counseling.

Funds raised go to direct costs associated with our services.

Your donation will be used to provide partial or full assistance to clients with financial need and will also allow us to obtain and care for the miniature horses used in our sessions with young children. Your contribution is tax-deductible because the Angel Fund is managed by our fiscal sponsor, S.T.E.P.S. With Horses, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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