The sound of “clomp, clomp, clomp” filled the air as Buckshot, a 14-year-old, 1,000-pound quarter horse, strode out from his stable and into the morning sunlight.
Escorted by Equine Approach, LLC owner Nancy Beers, Buckshot greeted local resident Anne Greenwood who is seeking to learn more about Beers’ therapeutic horsemanship program. On this day Greenwood sought to explore her relationship with Buckshot through application of human-horsemanship principles.
“Horses are social beings and herd animals that thrive on connection, and connection is a problem in today’s culture,” said Beers as she ran her fingers through Buckshot’s thick mane.
Located at Prairie Springs Farm, 7445 Templeton Gap Road, Equine Approach is a therapeutic program that enables citizens to explore communication, self-awareness and leadership issues through observing and interacting with the natural dynamics of horses. All activities occur not in the saddle, but on the ground where relationships begin and develop.
According to Beers, a horse is a prey animal with social roles and boundaries where comfort and safety are its chief concerns. The animal is finely-tuned to its environment, all energies at play within and is comfortable with a leader it can trust. It gives the horse the ability to reflect human energies and provide valuable perspectives humans may not have recognized before, she said.
Equine Approach is unique in that it concentrates on the life skills, personal growth, staff development and mental health aspects of horsemanship, Beers said. “When we interact with them we must present ourselves in a way where the horse feels comfortable with us,” Beers said.
“Our team has more experience in the field than any other equine assisted therapy practice in the Pikes Peak region. We offer people opportunities to experience authentic, meaningful connection with horses, themselves and each other, right in the eye of the explosively changing north Colorado Springs area.”
Beers has more than 30 years of equine assisted activities and therapies experience, having learned her craft chiefly through on-the-job-training. As a child she worked on a horse farm in Connecticut where she learned about horse-human relationships.
Beers later entered the mental health field and later combined both passions to create her business, she said. “I don’t have a degree, but I am certified in this specialized field,” Beers said.
At one point Prairie Farms owner Rick Schubert stopped by to say hello. Schubert, who has owned the farm for 20 years, described the facility as a family-operated horse-boarding business. “I can board about 30 horses,” Schubert said.
According to Schubert, Prairie Farms also offers a feed store, lessons and public viewing horse events. However, Equine Approach is the farms’ main attraction. “Rick was kind enough to let me bring my program here and everything took off from there,” Beers said.
Following a short lecture, Beers led Buckshot and Greenwood to a nearby arena for a brief horsemanship lesson. Beers instructed Greenwood how to properly extend her hand when approaching a horse and to not startle the animal. Tears welled up in Greenwood’s eyes as Buckshot nuzzled closer to his new friend.
“People tell me this was a life-changing experience for them as they learned to better interact with humans. With all the fear and disconnect in our current culture, we want to reach out to people to help them find a better way,” Beers said.
Beers encourages citizens to work with someone who is trained and credentialed in equine assisted facilitation. Many options exist for what people call Equine Therapy (therapy for the equine); however, the term in incorrect, Beers said, and that Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies is the proper title.
“While there are good people out there hanging out a shingle, not all of them have been formally trained or hold a credential,” Beers said. “So I encourage anyone to research the qualifications of the program or provider, from what certificates or licenses they hold to whether they carry adequate liability insurance, have documented policies and procedures.”
Equine Approach is a member center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. A volunteer staff made up of attorneys, teachers and experienced riders serve about 25 clients weekly. Clients learn about horsemanship, how to approach the horse, and gain their trust and confidence.
Sessions are scheduled by appointment only. Cost is $60 per person for a one hour session, and $30 per person for a 90-minute group session. “Our volunteers are the backbone of this business and are incredible people,” Beers said.
To learn more visit theequineapproach.com or call 347-5811. Check out a 5-minute video at vimeo.com/234606215. Contact therapy partner, Mayfield Counseling Centers, at 452-4803 and speak with Rita Petersen about the equine program.