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Ranch near Madden uses horses to help people overcome mental health issues

By: Allison Chorney

  |  Posted: Thursday, Mar 13, 2014 10:33 am

Equine Assisted Life Coach Angie Payne stands with therapy horse Fancy, Feb. 27 at Silver Valley Ranch located near Madden. The ranch is an Equine Facilitated Wellness Facility that relies on horses like Fancy to help people with mental health issues. Payne said Fancy is particularly good at helping people overcome trauma because she will hold space and allow clients to have a good cry on her.
Equine Assisted Life Coach Angie Payne stands with therapy horse Fancy, Feb. 27 at Silver Valley Ranch located near Madden. The ranch is an Equine Facilitated Wellness Facility that relies on horses like Fancy to help people with mental health issues. Payne said Fancy is particularly good at helping people overcome trauma because she will hold space and allow clients to have a good cry on her.
Allison Chorney/Rocky View Publishing

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Silver Valley Ranch, an Equine Facilitated Wellness Facility located about 16 kilometres northwest of Airdrie, offers clients a chance to take a unique journey of self-discovery with the help of some special four-legged therapy assistants.

Angie Payne, a certified equine assisted life coach, said horses make great therapy animals because they can only live in the truth of the moment.

They have no preconceived notions of what a situation or person is supposed to be like.

They have no judgment and are completely accepting.

They do not understand putting on a brave face and acting one way when you feel another, she explained.

“They really encourage the client to get into their truth,” Payne said.

She said if a person is blocking or not allowing themselves to feel the feelings they are experiencing, the horse will often simply walk away from the client and wait until that client releases or accepts that authentic emotion before the horse comes back to interact with the client.

Payne calls the therapy horses truth detectors.

“This really is a place where you don’t have to put on any facades,” she said.

Payne works with Silver Valley Ranch Owner Megan Saum, who is a certified personal and professional life coach, leadership coach and addiction recovery coach, to help clients suffering from a number of emotions and mental health issues including depression and anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and even grieving.

“I grew up on this property and it has always been my sanctuary,” Saum said, adding the goal of the Equine Assisted Wellness Facility is to help others find peace and discover who they really are and why they are that way.

Both Payne and Saum said they let the horses act as facilitators for their clients while they stand back and help the session move forward naturally from clues they receive from the horses.

“The majority of what we have in most our sessions is reflective,” Saum said.

“Where the client is that day and what they need to do to make a shift.”

“It’s very much in the moment,” Payne added.

Though they said every session is different, the life coaches will eventually asks their client to enter the round pen located in the barn to interact with the horses.

Sessions may include activities such grooming or leading the horse or reading their body language, but many include waiting for the horse to determine what direction the session will go in.

“I’m here to ask the right questions,” Payne said of her role.

She said she will encourage the client to delve deeper into their emotion from the sidelines as the horse provides support or waits on the outskirts of the pen until a client is ready to embrace what they are feeling.

“For people that are grieving, a horse can hug you like no one else. There is no time limit, they will hold you for as long as you need to be held,” Payne said.

Payne said part of the reason clients open up to the experience is the tendency for people to become more relaxed and feel more comfortable just because they are with an animal.

Saum added horses in particular seem to have a spiritual quality that makes them able to instantly understand or read your emotions.

She said she doesn’t think there is anyone out there that wouldn’t benefit from a session with the therapy horses.

“If you’re ready to look in. If you’re ready to start a journey of self-discovery,” Saum said.

“It’s not an easy place to go (to look at yourself) but when you come out the other side it is so worth it,” Payne said.

“It’s never too late.”

The ranch hosts not only individual one-on-one session but also workshops and group sessions.

For more information on the ranch, visit www.equineconnection4you.com

For more information on Payne and equine assisted therapy, visit www.equineenrichment.com


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