FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Please connect with us if your questions aren’t answered below, we are always happy to help you
What is Equine Therapy?
Refer to our Blog post: What is Equine Therapy? for a comprehensive description of what Equine Therapy can mean in different environments, including non counselling environments.
At Healing Hooves we incorporate specially selected and trained therapy horses and other animals with humans in a counselling setting and relationship. All of these interactions are carefully supervised, and are designed in accordance with each client’s therapeutic needs and objectives. At Healing Hooves we bring together aspects of different fields including attachment theory, developmental psychology, person centered counselling, play therapy, experiential learning, theraplay, AAT, therapeutic riding and horsemanship. This results in a uniquely effective form of counselling, drawing upon the human animal bond to foster healing and growth.
Our approach is grounded in the most recent advances in neuro science and attachment theory as reflected in the work of Dr. Gordon Neufeld.
At Healing Hooves the horses are far more than ‘tools’. They are a key part of our counselling team, bringing themselves and their innate nature to the counselling relationship. Horses provide genuineness, unconditional positive regard and empathy as a part of their innate nature in a manner us human counsellors can only strive to achieve. Meet the Healing Hooves herd on our Meet our Professionals page.
Find out more about the benefits from incorporating animals into your healing approach and environment on our Key Benefits page
How Can I Learn More About Working in This Field?
Part of our vision at Healing Hooves is to provide professionals, students, and others interested in getting involved in the field with information, resources and direction in the area of equine facilitated wellness and animal assisted therapy.
Healing Hooves offers a professional training program recognised by, but independent from, various national certification bodies including EFW-Canada. This separation of training an certification is as per Canadian and international best standards: ISO/IEC 17024. We also have a publication providing resources, research, program materials and other information as a part of our Exploration Training workshop – the first step in training at Healing Hooves and first step for certification with EFW Canada.
You can find a full description of our training program here
Resources for Parents and Professionals
We have published a number of therapeutic children’s stories featuring the Healing Hooves animals and sharing their stories. All proceeds from the sale of these books subsidise counselling and equine therapy sessions with low income families and/ or help finance the physical needs of our therapy horses, dogs and cats.
Grounded in attachment theory and developmental science, each story covers a different therapeutic theme including emotional expression, resilience, recovery from loss, forgiveness, and relationship conflict. They are also simply fun, engaging and amusing stories holding universal applicability to all children and their parents.
Share these stories with your children and clients to help you address potential areas of concern in a fun, engaging and non-threatening way, bring you and your child closer, strengthen your relationship and improve communication.
We frequently have a selection of our books available for free download. Visit our facebook page for current offers.
What Happens During an Equine Therapy Session?
Using an approach called Equine Facilitated Wellness (EFW) – also sometimes referred to as Equine Therapy or Equine Facilitated/ Assisted Psychotherapy or Mental Health – we partner with animals as powerful role models, teachers, friends and guides on this incredible life journey. Sue McIntosh and her staff deliver individual and family counselling sessions with a team of specially trained therapy horses and other animals. Every session is tailored to meet the specific needs and objectives of each client and can vary greatly. Our session length is either one hour or 90 minutes – we usually recommend 90 mins when they are over 12. Sessions take place in the indoor or outdoor arena, in the paddock or in the barn with the horses, although when it is cold we can also work in the heated office with the cats. While with the horses, riding can be an option in time for some clients but this is low key and not a huge focus of the sessions – we focus more upon the relationship that develops between a client and horse and the opportunities that arise from this. We also draw on a lot of story telling with and about the horses.
Often we will work through carefully selected, or specifically written, stories to allow us to work ‘one step removed’ at those times when a direct approach would be overwhelming and risk doing more harm than good. A selection of our stories are now available for use by parents and other counsellors. See our shop for more information and our facebook page for free downloads.
Sessions may involve specifically designed groundwork exercises with the horses, grooming, riding or simply talking with the counsellor while doing horse related activities. Some sessions involve very little activity and simply focus on just ‘being with’ the horses. Discussions may start in the context of the horse and the activity and gradually lead to parallel issues/ learnings in the client’s life if/ when a client is ready and able to make this transfer.
Much of the work done during a session is through metaphors. For example, through simply being with the horse and through various groundwork exercises, the client could work to regain their sense of self, control and boundaries in the presence of the horse, which can open the door to experiencing this in other relationships. Other clients, for example a teenage girl with issues around body image, learn about self-care through learning about horse care. In other cases the horse can act as a mirror, providing a client with immediate feedback about how their behaviour impacts others. For example a child who is outwardly aggressive may find that a horse runs away from him/ her in the field. To connect with that horse the client will need to acknowledge their impact on the horse, and try a different approach. Other clients just need to be with the horses; to have the opportunity to give and receive safe non-threatening affection and physical touch, through grooming and other simple interactions.
Our approach is firmly grounded in attachment theory, developmental psychology and neuroscience; an insight approach, rather than a behavioural approach. Specifically, it is grounded in the approach developed and taught by Dr. Gordon Neufeld with whom all Healing Hooves counsellors and trainers have extensive training. As such the focus is upon the relationship between a client and the key attachments in his/her life, upon the client’s longer term healing and development, and upon the needs and emotions underlying their behavior or struggles.
This is approached through facilitating a process and creating an environment within which the client develops a positive relationship with the horses and other animals at Healing Hooves. This is then used as a bridge to develop a positive relationship with the counsellor, and with other key healthy relationships in the client’s life. The interactions and interventions facilitated with and through the therapy animals, and all other therapeutic approaches and interventions followed by Healing Hooves Counsellors, are grounded in our understanding of both human development and attachment, and the interplay between these two aspects.
This includes consideration of attachment depth, security and health; the health and maturity level of the developmental processes of emergence, adaptation and integration; the level of emotional defenses and the impact of this upon both attachment and the developmental processes; and the interplay between all of the above and a person’s ability to feel and express emotions (including frustration and alarm) in a healthy and vulnerable manner.
Who is Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy most appropriate for?
While Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy can be beneficial for a wide range of individuals with a wide range of needs, clients who can particularly benefit from this form of therapy include:
- Individuals with anxiety or depression
- Individuals with attachment struggles
- Individuals who have been experienced trauma, violence or abuse
- Individuals who are not responsive to ‘talk’ therapy approaches
- Parent child conflict and relationship breakdown
- Adults seeking personal development and/ or to explore and heal from past trauma or abuse
- Parents seeking better relationships with their children.
Our approach is not a panacea. Clients are asked a number of questions before counseling begins to ensure our services are going to be safe and beneficial for all involved. Healing Hooves prefers to work with non mandated clients – i.e. clients coming willingly – and we are usually only able to work with children over the age of six.
We also have an extensive training program and a wide range of resources for professional, students and others seeking to develop a career in Equine or Animal Assisted Therapy or to incorporate animals into their existing practice.
What is the Referral Process?
Individuals and families can self refer to Healing Hooves.
We have an intake process when working with children/ teenagers which can be completed in part by e-mail and then with a phone or in person session with the parent/s (not your child at this stage). If parents can come here in person it is definitely our recommendation as it gives you the added advantage of being able to have a look around our facility, meet our counsellors, and the animals, and decide whether it feels like a good fit.
Simply contact us with the answers to the initial intake questions (below) and together we can decide whether this program is a good fit for your needs. Please note that we do not work with mandated clients. That being said many people who are not willing to other counselling programs are more willing to give it a try when animals are a part of the counselling team.
After that if your child is a good fit for our program and vice versa, the next step would be to bring your child here for their own individual session. We work from a strong attachment perspective and like to involve the parent/s in the counselling process as much as possible. This may mean supporting you in how you can support your child, parent consults to help you understand and address the concerns regarding your child, and/ or involvement in some of their sessions.
For Adult Clients our intake process is similar. We ask that you provide us with some general information to allow us to determine if our program is a good fit for you and then we invite you to book a first session.
Our session length is either one hour or 90 minutes – we usually recommend 90 minute sessions when the child is over 12 years old. We are not usually able to work with children under the age of 7. Sessions are usually outside and/ or in the indoor arena with the horses although when it is cold we can also work in the heated office with the cats. While with the horses, riding can be an option in time but this is low key and not a huge focus of the sessions – we focus more upon the relationship that develops between a client and horse and the opportunities that arise from this. We also draw on a lot of story telling with and about the horses.
As of September 1, 2021 our rate is $200/ hour plus GST and we do bill for the intake session. We provide you with a receipt which you may be able to submit for reimbursement if you have a health insurance plan and/ or for tax purposes. We ask for payment in advance by EFT and for 48 hours notice for all cancellations.
Intake Questions for Minor Clients
Adult Intake Questions
Funding has been available to our clients through SFP (Supports for Permanency), FSCD (Family Support for Children with Disabilities), McMan Youth, some Family and Community Support Services Associations, and some private insurance plans.
If you are claiming reimbursement through your insurance plan, SFP or FSCD we provide you with a receipt with the required information for these purposes. We are not able to direct bill other than to Children’s Services.
We ask that all counselling services be paid for in advance by EMT and we require 48 hours notice for all cancellations.
Who are the Healing Hooves Professionals?
Meet our ‘four legged’ professionals on our Meet our Professionals page.
Sue McIntosh, MA, CCC is a Certified Canadian Counsellor with a Masters Degree in Counselling. She established Healing Hooves in 2000, and has worked with a number of organizations including Child and Family Services, YWCA Sheriff King Group Home and Family Violence Prevention Centre, Chinooks Edge School Division, Olds FCSS, Sundre FCSS, CCASA, AADAC, and CWES.
With over thirty five years experience working with horses, Sue has worked with a number of well-established Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy programs in the US and the UK over the past 25 years. She has additional training and experience in Attachment, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), natural horsemanship and in therapeutic riding. She also works with North American organizations to develop nationally recognized industry standards for training, education, curriculum and certification in the field of Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy. Sue has had numerous articles published and has presented at a number of conferences on Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy and aspects of the human animal bond.
Carolyn Miller, RSW, BSW, MSW has been helping out at Healing Hooves since 2006 and joined our team more formally as a counsellor in 2011. She is a Registered Social Worker with a Masters and Bachelor’s of Social Work.
Carolyn has had a lifelong relationship with horses working with them in various capacities over the past fifteen years. Carolyn has been focused on a career in equine facilitated wellness from the beginning of her post secondary education and has taken every opportunity to tailor her learning to animal assisted and equine facilitated work including presentations, research papers and as a specialisation for her clinical master’s.
Carolyn has significant experience working with children and adolescents including those with FASD, anxiety, depression, attachment disorders, ADHD and ODD. Prior to joining Healing Hooves Carolyn worked in a number of different counselling environments including at Ardrossan Dreamcatcher where she also participated in animal assisted work. We are excited to have Carolyn as a part of our team!
Maren McIntosh is Sue’s daughter and has been helping her Mom out at Healing Hooves in various capacities since she could walk! Maren graduated high school in 2020 and will be starting University in September 2021 with the goal of becoming a high school teacher. In the meantime, we are fortunate to have her teaching horsemanship and beginner riding at Healing Hooves. Maren has lots of horse experience through eight years of pony club and ongoing training with Sue and other coaches. During horsemanship sessions Maren focuses on safety with the horses, body language, relaxation and communication. Sessions usually start with some relaxation and ‘get to know the horses’ exercises, then move into some grooming and simple leading. In time clients can usually ride (if they want to) and thus also learn some basic riding skills. Maren starts all clients off on a stationary barrel for safety purposes before they get on the horse. Her sessions are guided and supervised by Sue, and grounded in information provided by the client or their parent (through the intake process and also any parent support sessions). For example, if a child is anxious Maren might explore what horses do when they feel anxious and what might help, or if a child is struggling with boundaries she might talk about a time when a horse escaped from the field and why we/ they need the fences to keep them safe. We also have several therapeutic stories about the horses which Maren may recommend and/ or include in the sessions. Maren is NOT a counsellor and thus her sessions are not counselling sessions. The focus is upon horsemanship.
Sue Falkner March is the equine coach for Healing Hooves who supervises and guides our horses’ training and wellbeing. Sue also leads the horsemanship days that make up a key part of the Healing Hooves focus training.
Sue is a Level III Centred Riding Instructor who studied under Sally Swift, a Connected Riding Practitioner, and an Advanced T-TEAM practitioner and instructor. The horsemanship approaches taught by Sue form an integral part of all of our programs at Healing Hooves and fit exceptionally well with our counselling approach and philosophy.