Origin of HorseSensing
HorseSensing was started in 2010 to help veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder, now referred to as Post Traumatic Stress. Utilizing the EAPD equine knowledge system of Chris Irwin, from the start the horses and their welfare were given top priority in our sessions. We still operate in the same way today.
We started by offering day long Veteran Horse Activity Days 4 times per year. Once a month we did the same thing with a high end drug and alcohol treatment program in Sausalito.
The response for both groups was immediate and lasting, especially for the vets. We have continued to hold all day workshops for veterans and their spouses and partners several times a year and are having our next Horse and Yoga Activity Day on October 27, 2019. Valerie Marco is an exceptional trauma trained yoga instructor and leads us in a wonderfully grounding yoga session held in the main horse arena on the sand. Following that we take the veterans and other participants to meet the horses and spend the rest of the time working with them with the most potential for connection. I (Dr. Sally) teach folks about predator/prey dynamics and horse and human body language and then, along with our other amazing equine therapists, Marida Berlin, PATH and Lizbeth Hamlin, LMFT, the participants are guided to get the most out of their experience. We teach them to relieve their own stress and anxiety and lower their heart rate by connecting with the horses.
The chance to work with the horses on the ground and be taught basic grooming skills was good for them in terms of their PTSD etc. but it was also fantastic for their self-esteem and something most important-a sense of purpose. Each vet would be able to develop a relationship with a horse for that day and again the next time, and develop their skills in being a leader with their horse as well as basic grooming skills. Over the years, holding these groups but also being a former groom and then stable manager (for Bill Field in Rancho Santa Fe and Oregon) made me remember just how powerful and transformative the daily work with the horses can be.
Way back in about 1977, I (Sally Broder, Psy.D.) was 15 years old and answered an ad in the Penny Saver for a groom job in Rancho Santa Fe, working for a well-known Western trainer, Chet Apshire. Well, I got to the barn in the ad and he was not there. However, there was a man in the bull pen working the prettiest horse I had ever seen. It was a light chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail and shiny as could be. It turned out this 2 year old colt was an American Saddlebred. The man said that Mr. Apshire was not at the barn but that he could use some help himself if I was interested. His name was Frank “Poncho” Kibbee. He was trainer to Mrs. Bernice Neil (Saint and Sinner and other nice horses.) That began my journey with American Saddlebreds. I had lost my brother 2 years before and with just me and my mom at home now (he had died while living with us) life could be very sad at times. One day, I was rubbing on a horse’s leg and had started crying and Mr. Kibbee happened to walk up at just that minute. He said, “Sally go ahead and let down on the horses. They can take it.” And he was right. Although it was a painful time at home, at the barn I came alive in the joy of learning more each day about these magnificent creatures, the American Saddlebred! Mr. Kibbee sent me to work for Barbara and Sonny Cannon in 1980 at the Menlo Circus Club.After a year of working for them I moved to San Francisco to go to school. I ended up taking a wrong turn and going down a path of drugs and alcohol, much like my brother that had passed. I know now, as a psychologist, I was numbing the pain of that loss.
Years later at the age of 26, I ended up at an AA meeting and decided to stop all substances. I have now been sober and clean from all mind-altering substances since 1988. I was literally at an AA meeting shortly after when someone asked me, “Sally why aren’t you doing what you really love, the horses?”
I got on the phone and called a well known (now Hall of Famer) ASB trainer, Anne Speck. As luck would have it, World's Champion American Saddlebred horse trainer, Bill Field had newly established his barn in Rancho Santa Fe. Anne suggested I go out to Bill Field’s barn. He hired me. He tells a story of how he really didn’t need any help but he hired me anyway. I either looked super eager or desperate, not sure which. At that time, Mitch Clark’s barn was right behind us and we often had horses that directly competed with Mitch. Within 2 years Bill named me his stable manager and I was incredibly proud. That job gave me pride, self-esteem, a true purpose and a reason to continue in sobriety. An added benefit was to work on great horses like Warrick Warrior, El Presidente, Out Fox Em’ and many others. Bill Field was meticulous as they come and I learned from him every day.
After being with Bill’s barn for 4 years I was lucky enough to work for Bill and Nancy Becker for a brief time before deciding to enter college. With the confidence, skills and work ethic I had learned working with horses I received my bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree one upon the other. Being in the horse business taught me that when you have 20 horses at a show and you have 7 going in one morning and 7 that night, you better just put your head down and keep moving (figure of speech) there are tails to wash, feet to sand and tack to shine to perfection. This served me well through school. I went on to become a clinical psychologist, working for the NFL, training law enforcement, working for years helping veterans and finally incorporating horses into my therapy work. It all started with the horses. I have had this particular dream, our grooming education and therapeutic program, for a long time and the time is finally right.
The Strengths of HorseSensing, Kentucky Horse Caretaker Education Program
Now to why you might be interested in us as an organization to be involved with. We have many years of experience working with horses between all of our team members and a ton of passion.
Phillip Crittendon- Many of you in the show horse world know Phillip Crittendon, our Education director for American Saddlebred/Hackney horses and ponies. He started out with Helen and Charles Crabtree and continues to work for trainers at shows all over. John Field flies him down to Texas for shows rather than hire someone local because he knows what a great horse caretaker he is. He is meticulous and kind with the horses and doesn’t miss a thing.
Billy Bob Taylor- If you have not met him yet, I look forward to when you do. He is a walking history book of the racehorse industry and has worked with Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds for more than 60 years. He is the patriarch of the Taylor family of Taylormade Farm and brother to Daddy Joe Taylor. He is still very involved with Taylormade now and has been there in the winner’s circle with California Chrome at the Breeders cup and other races. California Chrome now stands stud at Taylormade. BillyBob was in large part responsible for Taylormade purchasing Lazurus, the Standardbred harness horse from New Zealand and was there when he began winning races in the U.S. such as the Dan Patch Stakes. He is a master horseman from foaling a horse to getting them to the track and will pass on what he knows to the folks on our program.
Dr. C. Reid McLellan and Groom Elite- I invite you to go to here and look at all the information there including Dr Mac’s background and specifics of Groom Elite certification programs. HorseSensing is teaming up with Groom Elite to create a comprehensive grooming education program. We are extremely fortunate and excited for this opportunity. The HorseSensing Groom Elite Certification Program (HSGrooming) will be customized for our purposes from Basic Grooming 099, Groom Elite 101,Groom Elite 201 and portions of Farm Groom Elite. HSGrooming will take approximately 36 weeks to fully complete and will include over 40 hours of classroom instruction and over 80 hours of hands on practical application. Participants will have opportunity to learn extensive safety and equine therapy skills that go beyond what I have picked up from my extensive learning experiences.The curriculum is accompanied by a full color textbook and classroom instruction will be complemented by comprehensive power point and video presentations. World Champion Horse Trainer, Bill Field went through the entire curriculum and was VERY impressed by the detail, the photos, the veterinary aspect and the thoroughness of terminology.
Participants in our program will have the advantage of such detailed learning materials as they apply the principles in hands on practice. This curriculum begins with how horses are designed to survive and how to use basic principles of horse behavior in catching, walking, grooming, bandaging, tacking and even riding a horse. Qualified instructors as well as industry professionals will provide instruction and guide practice sessions. Participants will be evaluated periodically with minimum competencies required before moving to a more advanced lesson. At the conclusion of each phase of HSGrooming each participant will be given a “Certification Assessment’ which will include an industry approved written exam and practical exam stations including Behavior, Feeding, Health, Bandaging and Tacking.
Grooms are certified at five levels from Entry Level to Elite. Those that complete the certification portion with top marks will have an option to continue as a “Teaching Assistant” and learn additional skills such as mentoring, team leading and supervision. This may seem like overkill but when you hire one of our graduates at your barn as an intern or employee you will appreciate and your horses will benefit from what our graduates know and can do.
Click here to see the outline for Groom Elite 101 as taught at racetracks and training centers
New sections will be written for American Saddlebred, Hackney and Harness Racing specializations. We will be posting a form asking for input regarding skills and knowledge that professionals such as yourself believe should be included. We may even ask you to write a chapter or section that is your speciality. We invite your input to make this as complete as possible. We will also be asking for volunteers to serve on an advisory committee to review the curriculum and make suggestions. If you are interested in helping in that way please let us know.
Our two certified education directors will teach these skills and coordinate clinics by professional in specialty areas (equine dentist, farrier, braiding, etc.). If you are interested in contributing as part of this education team, please contact me.
Participants will have access to a variety of horses including those we accept as retirement horses, young horses donated to our program, rescue horses that are appropriate and our own horses. In addition to daily and weekly learning and practice opportunities at our farm, participants will benefit from “training field trips” to local Kentucky shows where those that have demonstrated an appropriate skill level may have an opportunity to practice putting horses in the ring and other horse show activities. Participants will also be taught "Soft Skills" such as
Being dependable-showing up to work on time or early
Having a good attitude
Being willing to do whatever is needed
Speaking up whenever necessary-anything from seeing mold
in the grain to a horse with a slight swell in a pastern to asking for what they need.
Being able to work as a team.
Working through conflict-Resolving things in positive ways.
In addition to the employment education aspect to HorseSensing, we are also an alcohol and drug relapse prevention program (NOT a treatment program). What this means is that people who participate in our program will have random drug and alcohol testing. We will also have components built into the program that support sobriety. Not every single person that comes to HorseSensing has to have had a substance issue, however they will all have a chance to participate in these therapeutic components.
These components will be:
Process and check in groups
Relapse prevention groups
Mindfulness and meditation groups
Yoga and other exercise classes
12 step meetings
With the combination of a therapeutic environment, thorough education on horse caretaking skills, farm work, feed and barn management skills, we hope to help a lot of people find their new career in the horse industry while finding themselves and their confidence at the same time.