DiscoverEquine Assisted World with Rupert Isaacson
Equine Assisted World with Rupert Isaacson
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Equine Assisted World with Rupert Isaacson

Author: Rupert Isaacson

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Here on Equine Assisted World. We look at the cutting edge and the best practices currently being developed and, established in the equine assisted field. This can be psychological, this can be neuropsych, this can be physical, this can be all of the conditions that human beings have that these lovely equines, these beautiful horses that we work with, help us with.

Your Host is New York Times bestselling author Rupert Isaacson. Long time human rights activist, Rupert helped a group of Bushmen in the Kalahari fight for their ancestral lands. He's probably best known for his autism advocacy work following the publication of his bestselling book "The Horse Boy" and "The Long Ride Home" where he tells the story of finding healing for his autistic son. Subsequently he founded New Trails Learning Systems an approach for addressing neuro-psychiatric conditions through horses, movement and nature. The methods are now used around the world in therapeutic riding program, therapy offices and schools for special needs and neuro-typical children.

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10 Episodes
Linda Kohanov is a legend. A household name in the horse world and also for many of those interested in shamanism and myth, her bestselling books The Tao of Equus Riding Between The Worlds, Way of the Horse, The Power of the Herd and The Five Roles of a Master Herder have established her as a go to as a reference for the spiritual side of the horse and human connection. Her courses and lectures and method  Eponaquest, keep her busy nationally and internationally. But there is a lot more to Linda than that. her background as a musician, journalist, historian and music critic, as well as her deep inquiry into mythology have given her worldview that sees patterns where others might miss them, discerns structures and connections between seemingly disparate world and - in about as clear a way as one could wish for - sets a gold standard for self actualization: creating a life and career through ones passions that also serves and inspires others.  The world of equine assisted human development owes much to Linda as a pioneer, but her work has spilled over into the non equine mainstream of human development as well. Living in the Sonoran Desert near Tuscon, and opening her ranch to seekers of the horse human connection from around the world, Kohanov has a story that can inspire anyone from any walk of life seeking to self actualize through their interests, their passions, their heart. There is much to learn here as Linda takes us on a journey that gives us many clue as to how we too, might find our calling.Books mentioned:All of Linda's books listed on AmazonTao of EquusRiding between the WorldsWay of the HorseThe Power of the HerdThe 5 Roles of a Master HerderContact Online courses: LindaKohanov.comWorkshops Epona Quest InstructorsFind our other shows and programs:
Anyone in the Equine Assisted World had heard of the legendary EAGALA program - perhaps the first organization to really bring the field out of the realm of purely therapeutic or adaptive raiding and into the realm of the neuro-psychiatric, at least on a level outside certain isolated mental health institutions.What many in the Equine Assisted fields may not know is that EAGALA was the brainchild of Lynn Thomas, a mental health professional who didn't know much about horses but who from a very young age, through being drafted into a series of outward bound programs for at risk youth, some of which had horses,observed the radically positive effect that nature, movement and horses, even when one didn't ride them, had on people.Here on Equine Assisted World Lynn recounts the fascinating story of how these early insights morphed into the EAGALA program and how that grew exponentially into the giant we know today. But then, as all innovators do - she pivots - creating two new programs that are no less fascinating . Arenas For Change - a new cutting edge approach to well being for the equine practitioners themselves, addressing the burnout that so often goes with the demands of this field. And Horses For Mental Health, which - get this - helps therapeutic equine programs tell their story and get both recognition and more crucially, funding.This podcast is also time sensitive, as if writing this, on December 15th 2023, Horses For Mental Health is calling for submissions from programs in need of having their stories told. If your program could use a helping hand, and whose doesn't, then perhaps you should listen all the way to the end..Contact Lynnhttps://horsesformentalhealth.orghttps://arenasforchange.comFind our other shows and programs:
That the Netherlands is a forward thinking country we can all agree – especially when it comes to matters of social welfare. Given that the country also helped give the world things that give great pleasure - like coffee, tulips, the Stock Exchange, New Amsterdam (New York City), not to mention liquorice, gouda cheese and gin (alright, there might have been a bit of a colonial process at work for some of these, but nonetheless…), its perhaps no surprise that all things equestrian-assisted, from straight up Therapeutic and Adaptive Riding to Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to other neuro-cognitive approaches, have been funded in the Netherlands on a state level for decades. It’s also a country with a strong tradition in fine horsemanship. The Dutch Warmblood, the Gelderlander, the Frisian..’nuff said.Carola Beekman`s Maheo Program (meaning Proud in Polynesian), located in Arnhem, in the Eastern Netherlands, treads the line between cutting edge Equine Assisted Work for autism, trauma and neuro-cognitive work, and the use of the Old Masters System of Classical Dressage, especially the work in-hand and in the long reins, not just to keep her horses in optimum mind and body for the job, but also as its own therapy for her adult clients; training them to be horse trainers, maintainers and rehabbers.Carola’s background goes beyond the equine and therapeutic however – for years she was a teacher in the regular school system and eventually got her principal’s license, so teaching actual academics - maths, science, languages, all through the horses and her barn environment, is also part of the service at Maheo.Finally, where Carola has perhaps gained most of her experience, is through her own struggles with mental and emotional health. Rather than try to present herself as somehow perfect, she – in true honest Dutch fashion – is refreshingly open and frank about thee struggles and the insights they have given her, as we will learn.So listen on; Carola Beekman has a lot to teach us out here in the Equine Assisted World.Contact Carola offers Horse Boy Method & Movement Method workshops. Find her at: our other shows and programs:
 In our world of Equine Assisted best practices, the subject of horse wellness and horse welfare is paramount. It stands to reason that for a horse to be able to transmit wellbeing to a human, then that horse must have wellbeing itself both in its body and in its mind. Too often we have seen old, often injured horses donated to therapeutic programs because they are quiet, and then these horses - because they receive no real care other than feeding, blanketing and , if they are lucky, turn out - become more and more sour, as they become stiffer and more in discomfort. This sourness often gets taken out directly on handlers and volunteers - biting, sly kicks, foot crushes and shoulder barges are a known feature of some of the more old0school therapy barns. Indirectly the horses also take out their discomfort on the differently abled and neurodiverse riders themselves by giving a ride that just doesn't feel good, sometimes resulting in those riders not wanting to continue. Now, in defense of this older school approach, there is no blaming or shaming here. Knowledge of horse welfare in previous generations was something of a specialist area. The upper level of, say, eventers or foxhunters understood fitness and soundness very well, but this knowledge didn't necessarily trickle down to other areas of the horse world. Similarly, a horse's need for free movement and a healthy, stable herd dynamic was understood in some quarters but not necessarily in others. The importance of lunging or long reining for topline muscle and in hand work for suppling, rehab and maintenance of horses is only just becoming something mainstream, as if basic horsemanship. So, the older school therapy stables with suffering horses came from a good-hearted place, wanting to offer a much-needed service to an underserved community. Its up to us, as practitioners, to keep the best practices moving forward. So, this is why it gives us great pleasure here at Equine Assisted World to be interviewing Sea Stewart, whose approach to Equine Cranio-Sacral work addresses so many issues of our horses' wellbeing. From the need to plentiful cerebral spinal fluid in the spinal chord and brain, to the need for supple and well hydrated fascia between the muscle groups, to the production of calming hormones for emotional well being, the work of Shea Stewart and those like her deeply informs our practice. Listen on - there is much of value here that can be applied in any of our barns. And as you'll find, just listening to Shea and her outlook in bio rhythms and happiness is a treat. Enjoy.People, Groups and books mentioned:Mauro Zappaterra MD:  Mauro Zappaterra obtained his MD and PhD degrees from Harvard Medical School. He completed his PhD doing work with neuronal stem cells and the effects of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in brain development and in the adult. William Garner Sutherland: Grandfather of Cranio-sacral William Seifritz: Plant cell biologistBiodynamic Carnio Sacral Association of North AmericaMichael Kern UKBreath of Life ConferenceThe Cranio Sacral Podcast Ryan HallfordContact Shea shea@equinebalance.netFind our other shows and programs:
It’s not often that you get to chat with a neuroscientist. Still less often to chat with a neuroscientist that is also a doctor. Still less often to chat with a neuroscientist that is a doctor and also autistic. And less often still to chat with a neuroscientist who is also a doctor and also autistic and also a horseman. Finally, it’s about a chance in a million, maybe more, to chat with a neuroscientist that is a doctor, is autistic, is a horseman and who is also a renowned horse trainer and published author on horse training and behaviour. Dr Stephen Peters is that man. His book, Evidence Based Horsemanship, is rapidly becoming something of a bible among those who would understand how their horse’s brain and their human brain could best come together in working harmony. Of course, for those of us in the Equine Assisted World, whether we are practitioners, clients, or simply curious onlookers – or whether we are the horses upon whom the entire process depends – knowledge of the brain is key. If we are dealing with a physical issue, we first have to reach the person’s brain before we can start that therapizing stuff. If we are working with neuro cognitive conditions, a basic working knowledge of the neuroscience of learning and cognition would seem essential – yet very few programs outside of Horse Boy Method offer this. If you are training and maintaining the therapy horse, understanding your own brain as well as, to some extent, that of your four-legged colleague would also seem to be an advantage. One day, the therapeutic approaches will hopefully begin to put neuroscience front and centre of their professional trainings. Axons, dendrites, myelination, BDNF and other neurotrophins, cerebral spinal fluid, the amygdala, cortisol, oxytocin and serotonin, the dance between the re frontal cortex and the rough emotional seas of the limbic system: it’s a lot to navigate. So sit back, grab a pen, paper and beverage, and let Dr Stephen initiate you into the mysteries of that organ you work with every day; the noggin. Links and books mentioned:Evidence base horsemanship Martin Black and Dr. Steve Peters Courses with Dr. Steven Peters & Sarah Schlote course Dr. Find our other shows and programs:
Many of you have probably heard of Polyvagal Theory; it’s a bit of a buzzword these days in the mental health community. But what is it exactly? And how does it relate to equine work? Well, who better to explain it to us than Dr Rebecca Bailey, co-founder of the Equine Polyvagal Institute in California. Dr Bailey, a longtime family therapist and also an equestrian, has a wealth of experience working with trauma and psychological conditions of all shapes and sizes. A leader in the field, she directed the Sonoma County Police Department's Youth and Family Services Program, trained psychologists and therapists for the Marin County DUI Program, founded Transitioning Families, which trains health practitioners to assist families going through crisis, and works with national organizations such as the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children. Her background speaks for itself.But along the way, Dr Bailey also became drawn to the work of renowned psychologist and neuroscientist Dr Stephen Porges, a professor of psychiatry at North Carolina University Chapel Hill, whose Polyvagal theory - which describes how our autonomic nervous system provides us with a range of ways to respond to the world around us, including traumatic or dangerous experiences - determines not just our state of the moment but also our general world view and therefore our behaviors and long term destiny. Understanding the Vagus Nerve, so called because is wanders all over the body and touches every organ, and three of its key functions can unlock cycles of thoughts and behaviors that don't serve us and can help us retrain our nervous systems and brains into ways that do. But how? Well, listen as Dr Bailey explains it in plain English that even Rupert can understand!It’s not all science though. Dr Bailey also takes us on a fascinating personal journey through her background and work with horses and clients, some of whom faced situations most of us could not imagine surviving, her time with legendary counterculture rockers The Grateful Dead, her thoughts on altered states of consciousness, all wrapped up with plenty of humor.So buckle up, have your notebook handy and join us on a fascinating dive down the rabbit hole of the autonomic nervous system that is at once educational, informative, entertaining, and gives we Equine Assisted folks real, practical tips for how to bring this into our practice.Books mentioned:Equine Connection and Polyvagal Save Kids Smart ParentsPolyvagal in the courtroomAppeasementJC Dugard: A Stolen life McDonald: Notes from the barn Contact Dr. Bailey: office@Polyvagalequineinstitute.com Find our other Programs and Shows: 
Equine Assisted World was partly inspired by the work of an (until now) unsung heroine Terri Brosnan, of ChildVision in Dublin, Ireland. Coming into the field of therapeutic horsemanship later in life, after a three-pronged parallel career in sport horses, construction, and IT, Terri quickly noted the factionalism and rivalry within the world of Equine Assistance in general and realized that it was holding the field back, especially in terms of governmental and insurance recognition. But instead of just complaining about it, Terri did something about it, setting up the organization Equine Assisted Ireland to bring all of the modalities under one umbrella and presenting their results to the powers that be. This bore fruit, gaining funding from Ireland`s governing equine body - Horse Sport Ireland - to put together a training program for equine professionals from the sport horse world to orient themselves towards careers in the therapeutic and equine assisted field; the first such government funded initiative of its kind. Terri also used her geek side to dive into the world of neuroscience to help serve the 100 or so children a week that come to ChildVision with combinations of visual impairment, autism, cerebral palsy, chromosomal conditions and numerous other challenges...all done in a small arena next to a rugby field. Terri operates this cutting-edge program in the very center of Dublin, serving children that live in tenements and high rises. Join us on a fascinating journey - from Terri's childhood in Belfast during the Troubles, in which her family business was bombed, her neighborhood regularly shot up, and which trained her in conflict resolution, which has resulted in her bringing peace to the factions within the equine assisted field. Learn how later, in the green fields of Tipperary, under the mentorship of the legendary Croome-Carroll family, she absorbed the best of traditional Irish horsemanship and then dived deeper into classical lunging, long reining and in hand work to produce horses even in the inner city, so bursting with well bring that when she went to demo ChildVision`s methods at the Royal Dublin Show, people assumed her therapy horses were show horses and made multiple offers to buy them; testament to her philosophy that if a horse does not have well-being it cannot transfer well-being to a human. Terri also talks us through how her career as an construction engineer and IT guru led her to see the value of systems thinking, which she has applied to the cutting-edge work now being down at ChildVision - and how tribe and teamwork are the essential core of this. There aren't many out there like Terri Brosnan. Join us as we find out why. Organizations mentioned:International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO)  Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI)  Equine Assisted Ireland Notes: Magnocellular Pathways.—helps mapping for riders with visual impairmentsContact Terri, ChildVision Dublin Find our other Programs and Shows:
Sometimes the cutting edge is not where you expect to find it. Way down in Birmingham, Alabama Joy O’Neal’s Red Barn has quietly been creating technology to address the potent mix of neuro-psychiatric, emotional and physical challenges faced by children and families caught up in the foster care system. We use the word technology deliberately here – the word does not always mean simply mechanical or digital engineering; it also means the know how on a cellular level to provide human solutions for human dilemmas.Seeing first hand how the challenges of her own blended and special needs family responded to horses, Joy O’Neal, despite having had no horse background at all growing up in poverty in the Alabama backwoods, rose to the challenge of fulfilling the dream of a friend and riding mentor for her own family who wanted to make equine therapy available for people on low income. Perhaps the lack of horse background proved a strength here: Joy O’Neal set out to learn a range of equine and other healing approaches. With an unusual lack of prejudice, combining them into a potent cocktail of service that now serves as a beacon for effective and holistic equine therapy. Joy is also an advocate for women’s heart health, having survived a near brush with death this way herself. And because of this knows that the most important thing is providing joy (pun intended) in every moment of every day. Or at least as much as circumstance will allow. Join us on a fascinating exploration on how Red Barn combines a number of new approaches to achieve well being not just for children and families but also for the horses that serve them. Remember to send us questions for Joy’s follow up episode at podcast@longridehome.comYou can find out more about The Red Barn at www.theredbarn.orgLike always also check out our other programs and shows at and subscribe to our newsletter here.
Joell Dunlap runs Square Peg Foundation one of the most successful and pioneering equine assisted programs in North America. Starting with a simple idea: how could the quirky kids find a place in the world of riding as a sport when the world of dressage and hunter jumper barns can be so judgemental and unforgiving. She fell into creating programs for people with autism, ADHD, depression, eating disorders, and so on first with jumping, dressage and polo and then organically into therapeutic world, but without losing sight of helping them learn and excel as equestrians. The well-being of the equine partner is paramount at Square Peg and Joell is know for doing the impossible, taking off the track Thoroughbreds and putting them through the Old Masters system of training dressage from the ground with in hand work, long reining and lunging. The clients themselves become the horse trainers and end up often finding employment through this program which is now a registered health provision for San Mateo County, CA - aka Silicon Valley. It sounds like a slick path to success but Joell started as a teenage single mother of a child with learning challenges, working at the race tracks galloping two-year-olds in order to make ends meet. No silver spoon here. Her story provided her with the insights and compassion needed to work with challenged and at risk youth, including teenage sex-workers from San Francisco's notorious Tenderloin neighborhood, as well as putting together successful educational programs for kids, that no school would take. Her partnerships with renowned classical dressage trainers, such as the Valenca family from Portugal, Christian Bachinger of the Spanish Riding School and Dominique Barbier have brought her a recognition internationally that she has used to help establish programs as far afield as Europe and Asia. Join us for a fascinating discovery of how Square Peg Foundation makes all this work. And remember to subscribe and share. Find Joell at:Square Peg FoundationFacebookFind more about our programs and showsLive Free Ride Free PodcastNew Trails Learning SystemsLong Ride Home
In this the Pilot Episode of Equine Assisted World, our host Rupert Isaacson - known for Horse Boy Method, Movement Method and ATHENA - takes us through how the world of equine therapies has transformed itself in the last two decades from something aimed primarily at physical disability and adaptive riding, to the current mosaic of approaches for neuro-psychiatric, emotional, clinical, and medical conditions. What are the best practices? How can we identify them? How do we navigate this increasingly complex world through it's exciting and sometimes confusing development?Rupert also tells the story of how he himself became involved in the equine assisted world, primarily through the journeys on horseback with his autistic son. That led to his own exploration of how horses can heal neuro-psychiatric challenges. We also look ahead to some of the exiting figures that we will be interviewing in this first season. Join us for this Pilot and remember to subscribe and share! 
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