Raven Rock Ranch
As my graduation from the UW was quickly approaching, I started looking for what every college student dreams of, a career that blends my interests with a good paycheck. And I was so incredibly lucky to have found just that! Equine facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) is a field that utilizes the unique social behaviors of horses to help people face and work through life challenges..I discovered a center called Raven Rock Ranch, which uses EFP to work with children that have had psychological trauma. I began volunteering there and eventually became an instructor with my own kids to work with each week! I quickly fell in love with EFP, it combined the sensitivity to horse behavior that I had developed in my research with the psychological theories I was learning about in my classes. I've applied to Masters in Counseling programs with my interest in EFP in mind. Below is a portion of one of my application essays, which I hope will highlight some of the valuable lessons I have learned from my time at Raven Rock.
As I began to explore career options through my college courses I discovered equine facilitated psychotherapy (EFP), a rapidly growing field of experiential therapy. Horse behavior provides a unique insight into human emotions; as a social prey species they have evolved to be highly attuned to the arousal levels and emotional states of those around them. Because of this sensitivity, horses provide an honest reflection of a client’s emotional state; they are an insightful and telling tool for both the client and therapist.
I have been fortunate to experience this unique therapy firsthand working as a therapy facilitator at Raven Rock Ranch, an EFP center in Redmond, WA. The kids that come to Raven Rock have all suffered some sort of psychological trauma; many are in the foster care system or have been the victims of abuse or abandonment. Not only do the kids’ horses give me constant information about how the kids are feeling that day, but the horses’ reactive nature gives me ample opportunity to reinforce self-awareness, emotional regulation, and the importance of confidence. In this way, EFP not only helps these kids identify and work through their issues, but it also teaches them how to help themselves. To establish a positive and safe relationship with a horse, these kids must learn to create and maintain boundaries, identify and regulate their emotions, and practice compassion and empathetic understanding. By encouraging the development of these emotional and interpersonal skills, this form of therapy profoundly impacts these children’s lives. In doing so, it has the potential to break the cycles of abuse and maltreatment that would otherwise scar future generations.
Working at Raven Rock Ranch has been a meaningful learning experience. I have gained a great deal of knowledge about using horses to evaluate the emotional states of clients and teach therapeutic coping and life skills. In addition, I have come to understand the importance of establishing an authentic connection when providing therapy. Nathan was one of the first kids I worked with at Raven Rock;. Nathan was a typical teenage “cool kid” he was; he was aloof, disconnected, and desperate to impress. I struggled to design activities that would inspire a teenage boy to open up to a twenty-one year old woman. An unusually sunny Seattle day inspired me to try something new, and Nathan and I saddled up our horses and headed out on the trail away from the therapy center. We spent the next hour talking while riding side by side, notably without discussing his challenging past or his current hardships. The session I had with Nathan the following week was one of the most significant breakthroughs I have seen at Raven Rock. Our ride together had established a connection between us and, no longer distant and unattached, Nathan was able to identify and explain to me the similarities between his reaction to the frustrating behaviors of his horse and the emotions that overwhelmed him when interacting with his mother. Our authentic relationship gave Nathan the confidence to be vulnerable and provided me with valuable insight about the role of an effective therapist.
 Name has been changed