Did you know a horse can help one overcome social/emotional difficulties? Horses have unique character, personality, and even a sense of humor that can improve the quality of human lives. Various studies and practices have proved that horses have incredible healing power.
To add value to Dentonites’ wellness, a Haslet-based equine specialist has started providing learning and therapy sessions, and locals are attracted to it. The retired teacher owns a five-acre ranch in southwestern Denton County where four horses are always seen busy making people smile.
“Interacting with horses alleviates stress, makes people more self-aware, and provides judgment-free feedback on people’s activity patterns,” said Gabriele Barwig, the founder of Equine Affirmative LLC, a company that strives to help people improve their quality of life through equine assisted-learning.
“I have always had a love for horses but never had the opportunity to own one until we relocated to the US from Germany in 1999. My daughter and I took lessons when we first got to Texas. We both wanted our own horses to continue riding, and I discovered that I have a real affinity for horses.”
Gabriele’s passion for horses and the coaching experience she gained from her successful teaching career make Equine Affirmative a trusted place. Many parents are willing to take their kids to the ranch so that they can learn life skills beyond classrooms.
A young guy with difficulty focusing in school recently enrolled in Gabriele’s sessions. He was in the round pen for grooming when his attention started wandering. The horse sensed this and walked to the gate as if to say, “ok, we are done.”
“The guy was surprised, and we talked about his thoughts at the time the horse walked away. He realized quickly that his focus had left the horse. When he refocused, the horse came back. This happened several times, and he can now concentrate for longer periods,” she shared.
Many people might not know that horses may be big, but they would never attack a person unless they are cornered; they would much rather run instead. Horses are capable of hearing a human heartbeat from 4 feet away; they know if a person is calm or anxious. Their sensitivity to human feelings and their willingness to intuitively provide the form of interaction needed plays a crucial role in making a person feel better.
Gabriele says sharing life with horses is amazing and different every day. “Horses are so sensitive to feelings and moods; their behavior reflects my feelings and helps me to relax and self-regulate,” she smiled. “My horses are my sanity, my therapists, and my friends.”
From feeding horses to taking care of chores around the property and the barn to conducting sessions with clients, Gabriele’s regular days are full of to-do lists, and she loves it! Her husband takes care of the machinery and the yard. They have a friend who lives on their property and assists them.
Melany Creasy, a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and a Licensed Professional Counselor, provides equine-assisted therapy at Equine Affirmative. Melany says it is sad that many people take mental health for granted until the situation becomes desperate. “Communication and self-confidence are the two most important aspects one should follow to stay mentally/emotionally healthy. Talking about problems with family or other trustworthy adults is a must. Also, a strong belief in one’s moral compass protects one from peer pressure.” She also pointed out the importance of being involved in outdoor activities, which are good for both – body and mind!
Gabriele is offering two summer camp sessions starting from the last week of May. She wants more and more people to be aware of the positive impact of equine-assisted learning and to be able to benefit from it. As the business progresses, she wants to provide free coaching to veterans.
“I know how much horses help me be happy and content, and I have seen how much they can help others. This makes me want to make this incredible experience available to others.”