Horses take the reins in therapy
by Josh Carpenter
IRON STATION – An Iron Station farm is providing types of therapy that can be hard to find elsewhere in Lincoln County.
The nonprofit MaxWellness Therapeutic Farm has been offering Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) for about six months. It has served more than 100 people.
“This therapy can work for anyone,” Connie Zmijewski, owner of Lake Norman Counseling, said. “We have young boys and girls and even families come in. Just anyone that’s going through trauma. We’ll use the horses to help them work through how they’re feeling and why.”
The two types of therapy include a mental health professional and equine specialist and incorporate horses as part of the therapy team.
Zmijewski, along with equine specialist Tiffany Lindsay, led a number of therapy sessions throughout the day on Sunday, June 3.
“These horses can sense a person’s feelings,” Lindsay said. “If you have a child that feels defeated, the horse might go over and stand with him and provide some comfort.”
While the horses can sense when to provide comfort for some subjects, they also can get a feel for other emotions.
“The horses can change in a minute if we bring someone in that has a lot of anger,” Zmijewski said. “They have really developed a sense of what we do.”
Lindsay and Zmijewski usually hold sessions on Wednesday evenings, Saturdays or Sundays.
Most therapy subjects are referred through mental health professionals such as Zmijewski. Lindsay then picks certain horses to use for each therapy session.
Sunday, Zmijewski and Lindsay had a group of girls go through a ‘safe place’ building exercise. The girls used foam noodles, ropes and other items to build makeshift safe places, then decided on family members or friends that they wanted to keep there.
“We’re doing a safe place activity here because some children don’t feel safe in their homes,” Zmijewski said.
When at an equine therapy session, some children might be a little more open than they would in a normal session, Zmijewski said.
“When the kids get out here, they drop some of their guard down that in a clinical setting they might not do,” she said. “We incorporate them (the horses) sometimes as a family member. We might say, ‘If this was your dad, what would you say to him?’”
The farm will hold equine summer camps in June, July and August.
• Colts and Fillies day camp takes place June 9 and is for parents/guardians and children younger than 8.
• Healthy Soles takes place June 20-23 and is for kids between 8 and 16.
• Unbridled Change is for kids between 8 and 16 and takes place July 28.
• Helping Herd takes place Aug. 18 and is for kids 16 and younger.
Want to know more?
Address: 5001 N.C. 73, Iron Station
Details: Tiffany Lindsay, 704-634-2620