As the dust from the arena blows on a quiet Sunday afternoon, Kahra Dunkerson and Marla Neely get ready for the upcoming therapy session. Dunkerson walks up the trails to search for the free roaming heard and chooses the best horses for that day. Then she takes them back to the barn where they are prepped and wait for the client’s arrival.
Dunkerson had rode when she was young but fell out of the hobby as life got more demanding. About 4 years ago she discovered a nonprofit ranch called Forever Faithful Ministries where she learned about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, EAP, and started volunteering around the ranch.
“When I was younger, I had friends that owned horses that I was able to ride,” Dunkerson said. “I have always loved being around them. When I found Forever Faithful, I was so eager to get out there and volunteer. That was about four years ago.”
After volunteering for awhile Forever Faithful’s owner, Teri Matter, Introduced Dunkerson to Neely because she saw how great she was with the horses. She explained to Dunkerson what EAP was, and what role she would have in it. She knew this is what she was meant to do.
“Instead of sitting in an office talking to a therapist, you’re outside with horses a therapist, and me,” Dunkerson said. “Horses are sensitive to nonverbal communication and respond to the messages the clients give them. Horses are great at reading people.”
Neely and Dunkerson are partners and bring different things to the therapy sessions. Neely is a licensed therapist with a Master’s in Counseling from Sam Houston State University and attended University of Texas in Galveston to study Occupational Therapy. However, Dunkerson is certified to watch and observe the horse’s behavior during a session.
“Initially I was not interested in EAP until I saw what horses did for people,” Dunkerson said. “After that I packed my bags and flew to Utah to get certified to be able to work with the horses in therapy sessions.”
If you’re interested in these services and want to get in touch, the Facebook page is Unbridled Possibilities, the website is http://theupteam.net, and Neely’s personal number is 936-367-4700.
“EAP is for everyone, “Dunkerson said. “We have had clients as young as four years of age. EAP has showed me that we all struggle with things in life. We should all treat each other better than we do.”