A local equine therapist was recently awarded certification that will allow her to expand the scope of service provided at the Trinity Circle Horses Healing Hearts (TCHHH) north of Neosho, and expand the number of people who might benefit from equine therapy - on the ranch and elsewhere.

A local equine therapist was recently awarded certification that will allow her to expand the scope of service provided at the Trinity Circle Horses Healing Hearts (TCHHH) north of Neosho, and expand the number of people who might benefit from equine therapy - on the ranch and elsewhere.
TCHHH Dawn Newlan completed classes necessary for certification as an ESMHL, Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning through PATH Intl., the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.
"That means I am qualified to work alone - as an ordained minister or with mental health professionals with psychotherapy, or with teachers in education - working with IEPs, which is Individual Education Plans, in developing programs to help people heal from mental health problems," Newlan revealed. "Or to work with educators to help children that aren't learning the way they should in school, giving them an alternative way to learn outside of school. So we can actually teach them speech therapy, counting, any type of mathematics, English, spelling, any of their educational issues, any of them."

Though there are a number of therapeutic riding instructors in the area, Newlan indicated she is the only ESMHL within about a three-hour radius. "The difference being - therapeutic riding they do things such as balance, range of motion, it's therapeutic riding," she informed. "They don't have the training that I have, which I have learned to do the different planning, the different programs to work with a mental health professional and with an educator to achieve a set goal to either work with psycho-therapy or to work with teachers to educate. So that's a huge difference.

"So, it's opening up doors for me to go into the schools and say, 'Hey, you have your special needs class and I am trained to work with your children to help them further in their education.' Or to walk into such places like Ozark Center or working with Chris Parks (Restoring Hope Counseling Center), and other counselors and therapists, or with whoever happens to be around that might want to work with equine services; that I've been trained to work with the mental health professional and achieve a certain goal with a client that's having say anger issues, or has had severe traumas, or children with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)/ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Unlike the therapeutic riding, I'm trained to work with those problems instead of just doing therapeutic riding."

If  local counselors have children they feel would benefit from the alternative method of equine therapy they now have an additional service in the community they can tap.

"Also with my certification, we can bill Medicaid," Newlan revealed. "And we're working on getting the Medicaid contract now. And we are also working on trying to get a veterans contract through the VA (Veterans Administration) to be able to bill the VA."

That would open her services to more veterans, who now can not pay for such treatment. TCHHH has maintained a policy of providing services at no cost to veterans, but that is dependent upon the success of their fundraising efforts.

"We do - right now - our veterans' services for free, because I don't want any veteran ever turned down," Newlan continued. "However we can't do all of our services for free because we can't feed the horses. But the Medicaid, and hopefully the contract with the VA, is going to open all of that up so that we can really help a much larger portion of the Four States."

Horses As Teachers:
When in a bad place, you might put on a good front that will fool other people, but you won't get that internal sour mood past a horse.

The equine contribution to restoring mental health is their ability to mimic how a handler truly feels because Newlan said the horse knows who you are. "You may come in with a smile on your face and say 'I'm fine,' but the horses are so very sensitive, are so in tune with who you are that if you're angry or upset inside, they respond to that instead of the smile on your face. So they make you accept and acknowledge who you are, what you are doing, and why you are doing it. And then they show - through their reactions to your actions - how to deal with yourself.

"So if you come in a little angry and you are trying to work with the horse, the horse is going to be shying away from you, so you have to acknowledge, 'Hey look, okay, I'm angry inside, I need to calm down.' So I calm down, the horse calms down." Newlan continued. "And after many sessions of doing that, it actually teaches you that when you are out in the world to recognize the reaction from people that you are talking to, 'Why are they being this way? Oh, it's because I'm being very angry and aggressive. I need to step down. Okay I've calmed and now that person is responding to me in a much better fashion.' Whereas, a lot of people are just medicated and they are not taught how to cope with what's going on with them. The horses teach them to cope and handle themselves without medication."

In working in educational setting with children, she said kids don't mind learning while playing games, such as counting as a horse steps over poles. "It's a game instead of learning," Newlan enlightened. "So it's fun. And it's outside out of the classroom and they are getting fresh air and they are getting sunshine and they are getting to move around rather than having to sit behind desk. A lot of kids that are ADD or ADHD, that's good for them; so it gives them a chance to do something they can not do in a classroom environment and still learn."    

Newlan recounted a child with speech problems who after learning through the horses would then teach their parents what had been taught to them to provide the needed confidence to communicate and speak properly to alleviate their problems.