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"Dad taught me everything I know. Unfortunately, he didn't teach me everything he knows."
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 6 June 2018  

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Janice Tollini

  Horses as an alternative treatment modality
  By Janice Tollini

   Janice Tollini has worked in the health care industry as a clinical psychologist for 15 years. During that time, Janice held leadership and supervisory positions, allowing her to make strong business improvements through people and strategy. She is now a Talent Management Consultant, and is completing additional graduate training in industrial/organizational psychology. In 2017, she will become certified as an executive coach through the World Coaching Institute.
   Janice has successfully worked with employees and management to improve morale and increase performance, while decreasing turnover and absenteeism. She has increased employee skills and competencies, as well as identifying potential future leaders and preparing them for increased responsibilities and challenges. Check out Janice’s website at
   This month, she starts out writing about horse therapy.


   Oftentimes, there is confusion and even controversy regarding the definitions and benefits of alternative medicine, holistic treatment approaches and traditional medicine.
   Alternative medicine is any treatment which differs from conventional, allopathic Western medicine. This may include acupuncture, homeopathic treatments, or herbalism to list a few. A holistic approach is based on the philosophy which focuses on treating the whole person; mind, body and spirit. The foundation of this approach is the belief that any type of dysfunction in one of the three areas will ultimately have a negative effect on the remaining areas.
   Complementary medicine is any unconventional (alternative) treatment used in conjunction with or in support of conventional medicine. While these terms most often apply to physical medicine, they are meaningful in the field of mental health as well.
   There is a facility in our very own Black Forest area that fully embraces the notion of complementary treatment and the use of alternative methods in the treatment of post-traumatic stress. And in the true spirit of Black Forest, horses are a key component. Split Pine Ranch, owned by Bill and Cindy Sobatka, is located just off of Hodgen on Black Forest Road. This beautiful facility has offered boarding and a riding venue to local equestrians for many years. It is now also the home of the Holistic Therapeutic Equine Center (HTEC).
   Cindy, a nurse anesthetist and retired Lt. Col. United States Air Force, combined her passion for horses with her desire to help those who have experienced some type of trauma. She created HTEC, a nonprofit organization, with the mission to use the power of horses and alternative therapies to heal traumatic stress. Toward this end, she completed a two-year certification in Gestalt Equine Studies from the Gestalt Institute of the Rockies. HTEC offers both Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP).
   EFL is a form of experiential learning in which horses are an integral piece of the process. Typically, the client participates in ground activities with the horse (this is not the same as a riding lesson), and a trained facilitator guides the client through a collaborative experiential learning process. Through engaging in activities with horses, individuals gain insight about their interpersonal styles as well as how their behavior affects others. EFL is used in leadership development, team building activities and a variety of interpersonal skills-building programs.
   Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is provided by therapists licensed in the state of Colorado, in addition to being trained in one of the several models of psychotherapy involving horses. As with EFL, therapists utilize ground activities with horses in the therapeutic process. The client’s interpersonal struggles are evident in their interaction with the horse, and the therapist will connect that experience with the larger goals of treatment. EFP is gaining popularity in the psychiatric community, as evidenced by the increasing number of therapeutic riding certifications and programs.
   Why use horses?
  • Horses provide the ultimate opportunity to experience intimacy and trust in a safe, non-judging relationship.
  • Horses mirror us and give us 100 percent honest and immediate feedback.
  • Horses live in the present. As such, they help keep us in the present.
  • Horses are particularly helpful in working with trauma victims because horses are prey animals and live in a constant state of fear and arousal.
  • Interactions with horses provide the opportunity for metaphorical learning.
  • Only 10 percent of communication in any interaction is verbal. Working with horses requires us to develop non-verbal communication skills.
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” ― Winston S. Churchill
   HTEC was founded on the belief that there are numerous alternative methods to help people heal from traumatic stress. In addition to EFL and EFP, HTEC offers various therapies and educational programs, such as aromatherapy, holistic nutrition, herbalist protocols, and Reiki, to list a few. For more information, visit
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