BRIGHTON — Horses might be the most intuitive creatures on the planet — even more intuitive than one’s mother.
Most think of horses as powerful and majestic, confident and bold. In the wild, the story differs. In the wild, horses are prey, and they developed intuition and situational awareness in order to live and thrive for thousands of years.
“In the wild, they pick up on other animals’ energy in order to survive,” Brenda Compher said. “That instinct is what we use to do the therapy.
“They’re just going to pick up on what you’re projecting and mimic it back. We make observations so the people can help heal themselves.”
Compher owns and operates New Point of View, an equine therapy and team building business located at The Diettrich Farm, 2903 264th Avenue in Brighton.
The therapy to which Diettrich refers is espoused by EAGALA, which is an acronym for the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association which is based in Santaquin, Utah.
According to its website, EAGALA is the leading international nonprofit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and personal development needs.
The name of the foundation is synonymous with the name of the practice. Compher said EAGALA is difficult to define and is best experienced. The underlying tenet of EAGALA is an individual can be healed or improved if the person knows what he/she is projecting to the world.
“It’s hard to explain, but one you’ve experienced it, it’s kind of hard to walk away from,” Compher said. “It’s pretty loud. Insurance companies are starting to cover this.”
Compher has been involved with horses and with service work since 1989, and has been a certified EAGALA Equine Specialist since June 2017.
Compher works in tandem with Ann Hutten-Grossman, a mental health professional with several years of experience in counseling who holds multiple certifications. Hutten-Grossman became a certified EAGALA Mental Health Professional in June 2014.
“In order to perform what we do legally, we both have to be there,” Compher said. “We had to get insurance and go to school, and you have a certain number of hours you have to accumulate.”
Compher said EAGALA is practiced in 40 different countries, and is used by treatment centers such as Betty Ford and Hazleton.
“It’s what drug addicts run from — themselves,” Compher said. “In an individual way, it makes them face themselves. When you’re working with a 1,200-pound animal, it can be rather loud.”
All of the therapy in EAGALA is done on the ground, meaning there is no riding. A common exercise is to set up an obstacle course and ask participants to get the horse through the obstacle course.
Compher recalled working with a couple from northern Illinois. The woman worked as a therapist and the man worked as a lawyer.
Compher set up a 10-foot-by-10-foot wood square on the ground and asked the couple to get the horse in the square — without touching or talking to the horse.
After five to 10 minutes, the couple made no progress toward getting the horse in the square. Compher modified the exercise and allowed the couple to talk to the horse, and the two still made no progress.
Compher called the couple over, and she and Hutten-Grossman prepared to start asking questions about the experience. Compher said the horse started walking to the couple as soon as the two stopped trying.
Compher said people never know what they are projecting — love, hate, anger, fear, frustration — at the moment, or how the horse will react to those feelings.
“Horses don’t know how to lie, and they’re not judgmental,” Compher said. “It’s just information. You never know what they’re going to do with it.”
Compher said EAGALA is also used for team-building exercises, and is growing in the military community as a way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues.
More information about Compher and Hutten-Grossman’s venture, New Point of View, is available at https://newpovequine.com.