Horses That Heal: The Eagala Model

Horses That Heal/Willow Equine is our November Outstanding Non-Profit. Last week we were introduced to the concept of equine-assisted therapy. Read on to learn more about the Eagala Model program. —EH Stafford, Managing Editor



Who We Are and What We Do

Horses That Heal is a 501(c)3 public charity organization. Dedicated to offering equine assisted personal development to active-duty military, retired, reserves and their families. Programs are located in Charlotte, Fayetteville and Louisville, KY. This experiential program provides opportunities to achieve lasting healing through activities with horses.


Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is a unique approach to traditional therapy. The horse mirrors the emotional state of the person. This allows for observation, reflection, and acknowledgment. Horses that Heal is committed to the plight of our wounded warriors and their families.


Horses that Heal utilizes the Equine-Assisted Growth and Learning Association (Eagala) model in every session. Eagala has set the international standard for professional excellence. They work to improve the quality of mental health of people worldwide. Eagala has a distinctive and experiential framework. It allows clients the latitude to grow from the horse-human relationship.



Eagala sessions may help people suffering from:

  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Conduct Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Eating Disorders


It’s not horse back riding

All work with the horses is done on the ground. Horses are never ridden and the focus is not on horsemanship. This allows for freedom to move and interaction between horse-human. With the support of the professional facilitators (a licensed mental health professional and an equine specialist), clients reflect and make deep connections.


Reconnecting in a non-judgmental space


Clients are the experts in their life and have answers. They simply need a non-judgmental space and the time to reconnect. Working with horses helps develop non-verbal skills, confidence, and responsibility. It is powerful for  problem-solving, assertiveness, and teamwork. Time with the horses offers emotional, cognitive and social benefits. This model is particularly valuable for the military.


Program benefits

Horses are engaging.

The non-traditional setting helps service members move beyond perceived stigmas. The negativity associated with office talk therapy can be challenging.


The unique qualities of the horse speed emotional breakthroughs.

These highly-at-tuned animals offer safe reflection. There is immediate, compelling feedback for the anxieties military clients maybe facing. The horses’ sensitivity helps clients understand their own internal processes. Progress happens more readily than hours of talking. This is especially true for those suffering from PTSD.


Herd dynamics can help clients understand their own lives.

Observing the horses can help clients better understand their own dynamics. The horse may represent their family, military unit or the community. This provides another positive model for collaboration, support and trust.


Foster resilience in times of high stress – experience and doing.

The sessions re-create life experiences involving frustrations, high stress or relationship problems. This provides opportunities for clients to discover their resources and strengths. The perceived obstacles shifts to growth within their communities and homes. Clients challenge themselves in activities with horses. This removes much of the perceived stigma associated with therapy.


Real world solutions

Horses that Heal allows real world solutions to the toughest challenges. Clients find their own solutions to the struggles in their life. Horses that Heal holds solace, and non-judgmental acceptance for our veterans.



For more information

Due to the nature of our work, we do not accept volunteers. A beneficial way to help is to spread the word to reduce the stigma around mental health especially within our military. To make a donation, please visit



Katie Stankiewicz has always had a passion for horses and a deep desire to see people succeed. She founded Willow Equine, in 2012, which offers equine-assisted personal development in Mooresville, NC. Her mission is to enlighten clients to their innate abilities. Whether it’s taking the lead in their own health or focusing on work at their company, they re-energize themselves through self-discovery and horses. They are able to transform their struggles into authentic successes, and it becomes a part of their overall wellness plan and life-coping strategies.




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