Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding: Equine Assisted Learning and Therapy With In Stable Hands

Every week we like to recognize those doing good in the horse world. Today we applaud In Stable Hands, an equine-assisted therapy program that is making a difference in the lives of many.

In Stable Hands is a non-profit organization that was started by two sisters who wanted to make a difference in the world. Their passion and drive to help others improve their mental health inspired them to start this program. Their program offers equine-assisted learning and personal development programs to individuals throughout different points in their lives.

In Stable Hands has a mission that involves utilizing horses to assist in learning and therapy to help aid individuals in improving their quality of life. One mother, Traci D., recounts the wonderful things In Stable Hands has done for her son:

“I enrolled my son In-Stable Hands’ EAL program after Cari and Jen had brought their horses to his school. I had been at the school for an IEP meeting with school staff and once it concluded, the school counselor excitedly hurried me out the door to meet the horses. She was in awe of them and forgot to introduce me to the human part of the team, which made me chuckle. She rushed back into the building to send my son out and that’s when the story really begins.

“My son has always loved animals. As the illness had progressed, sometimes resulting in psychotic episodes, animals had been his only solace. They loved him and accepted him without reserve or judgment, which allowed him to love them back, no matter how ill he felt. When he met In Stable Hands’ horses, he immediately calmed and became more himself and less his symptoms. There was something about how solid they were that grounded him and for the first time ever, he wandered the field they were in with them, unafraid. His illness has at times been so severe that he would retreat into his inner world to the point where he now struggles to make meaningful connections with his peers. He often isolates and getting him to even want to try a new activity can be daunting.

“After that visit with the horses at the school, he asked me if he could see them again. My son never asks for anything. I scheduled for him to work with Cari and Jen for In Stable Hands’ six week EAL program and after just the first session, my son was different. I can’t explain it anymore than to say he was more present in himself. For the first time, in a very, very long time, he chattered to me excitedly about the horses and how they interacted with him. He hadn’t yet made the connection between how their interaction with him modeled how he could interact with peers but as the sessions progressed, something in him started to click. Horses have that ability to reflect back to you who you really are and not how you see yourself. The horses reacted to my son, not his illness, not his symptoms, not his fear and that planted a seed in him for how he could view himself.

His illness has no cure and is insidious in how it impacts self-view. He had a flare recently and after it settled, once again asked to work with the horses. Cari, Jen and their horses didn’t just model for him appropriate ways to engage with his peers, they planted a seed…which I call Hope.”

Leadership training conducted by In Stable Hands. Photo by In Stable Hands

In Stable Hands was founded in 2018 by sisters Cary Worley and Jennifer Ely. Ely stated, “We’ve always enjoyed sharing the amazing experience of being with a horse with others.” Their decision to start the non-profit organization was solidified on Memorial Day 2017.

The two took their now late horse, Shadow, to participate in the dedication of Serenity Garden at Veteran’s Place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Veteran’s Place is a housing facility that aids in placing veteran’s into homes to decrease the amount of homeless veterans in the Pittsburgh area. Serenity Garden is an enclosed area on the grounds where residents can go to relax, meditate and find peace from their hectic everyday life.

Worley and Ely agreed that the shift in those who interacted with Shadow left them with a feeling that pushed them to actualize their dream.

Shadow at the Veteran’s Place. Photo by In Stable Hands

After looking into various different programs, the two decided to pursue certification offered by the Equine-Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). EAGALA uses a model that includes a licensed mental health professional, a qualified equine specialist and horses.

Not only are Worley and Ely are the co-founders of In Stable Hands, but also they are Certified Equine Specialists. They also have mental health professionals Ann Flaherty and Cara Kelly, who joined their team in July of 2018. When working with schools, teams and other various organizations, the include they other mental health professionals in their organization.

Each session is done on the ground allowing the horse and client to interact as they please. The program welcomes individuals, small groups and large groups. They offer their services at their farm and will also travel to off-site locations.

Arnold Chief of Police, In Stable Hands Co-Founder Cari Worley and Roy A. Hunt Elementary Principal. Photo by In Stable Hands

EAGALA certification trainings are held all over the globe. It is a five-day intensive training where individual learns in a hands-on setting. The course is broken down into three subjects: discussions, demonstrations and experiences. In order to be certified successfully, individuals must complete the pre-training webinar, attend the entire training and complete the post-training requirements (to learn more, click here).

Sessions with In Stable Hands vary in length depending on the client’s needs and outcome requests. Individuals and small groups sessions are approximately 60 minutes. In Stable Hands also provides professional development trainings that range between two and eight hours. Additionally, In Stable Hands works with athletic teams and other youth development programs for two to four hours.

Pittsburgh Public School teachers supporting their trauma-informed classroom training. Photo by In Stable Hands

In Stable Hands is located in Greensburg, PA and appointments can be set up by calling 412-519-4309 or 412-901-2037. More information can be obtained at www.instablehands.org or at their Facebook page, In Stable Hands.

Mind your mental health and go riding, Horse Nation!

Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected] Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.