Those who work in high-stress careers, including military veterans and active-duty personnel, first responders and front-line workers, as well as their loved ones, oftentimes find themselves experiencing depression, anxiety, job burnout, Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD), and an increased chance of developing chronic mental health issues.
At Guiding Reins, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, we provide Equine-Assisted Wellness programs specifically designed to help veterans and first responders, and their families, learn how to cope with some of the burdens they’re carrying.
Because horses are such incredibly intuitive animals, they’re adept at tuning into human emotions, and developing a relationship with their people. Our Equine-Assisted Wellness programs are effective in helping those struggling with emotional distress and help open up new pathways for healing.
We offer a variety of small-group session options, from a 16-week or 8-week program, to full-day and half-day options for veterans, active-duty personnel, first responders, front-line workers and their immediate family. One-on-one sessions are available, as needed.
All of our programs are “unmounted,” meaning no horseback riding is involved. Each participant will learn valuable horsemanship skills, which in turn serves to build trust, understanding, communication and healing. One makes much more of a connection with a horse on the ground than they do in the saddle.
As a nonprofit, we’re able to provide our programs at no charge to our participants, thanks to generous donations and partnerships. We hope to continue to serve as many veterans, first responders, and their families, who need support and care in dealing with emotional and mental health issues as a result of trauma and high-stress work.
Who would benefit from Guiding Reins’ Equine Assisted Wellness programs:
If you or someone you love would benefit from participating in one of our programs, please contact us to learn more. If you manage a team and are interested in learning about how our programs can boost morale, improve productivity and help deal with workplace-related stress, we can customize a program specifically for you.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Diane took her first riding lesson at Lawton Stables on Hilton Head Island when she was seven years old, and the spell was cast.
She continued to work and show horses even through her college years, and was a member of the University of South Carolina Equestrian Team from 1984-1988. She then pursued a graduate degree and profession as a Paralegal, and started her own freelance business in 1999, Paralegal Resources, LLC.
Diane volunteered for 13 years with TROT (Therapeutic Riding of Tryon) and served as a Board member for FETA (Foothills Equestrian Trail Association). In addition to her role as the Founder and Executive Director of Guiding Reins, she also serves as the vice-chair of the Polk County Health and Wellness Coalition and recently achieved her EAGALA certification as an Equine Specialist.
She is thrilled to finally see her vision of Guiding Reins become a reality!
Alicia Sama, Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) Instructor, joined Guiding Reins in 2020. Driven by passion and an unmatched work ethic, Alicia took a waning equestrian program in Mill Spring, NC, and grew it by noteworthy proportions in just a short time. Under her leadership, the equestrian center became a location for children and adults from all over the Carolinas to enjoy and experience the equine world.
Over the years she has also made community outreach an important part of her passion for education. Alicia has collaborated with organizations such as the Pony Club of America, Boy Scouts of America, and Girl Scouts of America to offer youngsters the opportunity to learn more about horses and the equestrian industry.
Alicia is an integral leader in the fast-growing equine industry in this area and Guiding Reins is thrilled to have her on our team!
Victoria Elson, a Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) instructor, joined Guiding Reins in the spring of 2021 by offering her facility, ShadyView farm, as one of our locations. She since has joined our program as a facilitator.
She has worked in the equestrian industry for the past decade and now runs a lesson program as well as training and boarding at her family farm. She loves being able to share with others the healing and growth that comes from working with horses especially to those who might not normally get an opportunity to work with them.
Her love for equine assisted growth and learning started when she interned at Horse Sense of the Carolinas, an equine assisted therapy program, in 2018. Partnering with Guiding Reins is something that is very important to her and she has loved growing with our program as we have evolved and changed.
Mary Stoehr hails from the Windy City of Chicago where no one would dare ride in the winter! After college, she bought her first horse and dabbled in eventing competitions while pursuing a career in law enforcement in Connecticut. She retired as a detective after 22 years of service to pursue a degree and employment as a speech-language pathologist.
After moving to South Carolina with her husband, also a first responder, she continued to work as a speech therapist and became certified as a therapeutic riding instructor with PATH International, with recent CTRI designation. Currently, Mary works as a speech therapist teaching riding skills to children and adults with special needs at Free Rein Center for Therapeutic Riding and Education in Brevard, North Carolina.
In January, 2022, Mary began working with the Guiding Reins in order to be able to work with veterans, the population dear to her heart as a result of her personal and family association with the military.
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