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, 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 7 and the spell was cast! She continued to work and show horses even thru her college years and was a member of the University of South Carolina Equestrian Team 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 always had to board her horses off site, but had a dream of owning a farm and being able to see her horses in her own pastures someday (one day)?. In 2004, Diane and her husband Tom built Westview Farm in Campobello and the dreams finally came true and they and their horses and ACD Blue Heelers call Westview Farm home. Diane is a long time (13 years) volunteer with TROT (Therapeutic Riding of Tryon), vice-chair of the Polk County Health and Wellness Coalition, and served as a Board member for FETA (Foothills Equestrian Trail Association). She is thrilled to finally see her vision of Guiding Reins become a reality!
Red Palmer is our Chief Outreach Coordinator. He served in the Army and deployed in 2012 to 2013 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Red served in law enforcement in North Carolina from 2018 to 2020. After having back surgery, he decided to leave the Sheriff’s Office to focus on his health and family. Red’s wife is also an Army Veteran who he credits as the person that saved his life. He also has 4 boys that keep him busy and always moving.
Red attempted to go through Guiding Reins’ program in 2021 but knew in his heart he wasn’t ready. He knew that he owed it to himself to go through the program with an open mind and knew that he had to be ready for the program to work. Once he was ready, Red started the program again and allowed himself to go through it with an open mind and the results were a huge success. The experiences he had made him a believer of the program and in the power that the horses possessed to heal humankind.
Always knowing that his true passion was helping his fellow Veterans, Red was brought on board immediately after graduation. Red hopes that his story and experience will help other Veterans the same way it has helped him.
When Red walks into the room, be prepared for a hug. No matter what kind of day you are having, when he shows up, you can’t help but smile and feel happy. Red has that special gift of making you feel like family and the ability to always make your day better.
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 alike to enjoy and fully experience the equine world. Her attention to detail and gentle, yet forward instruction enabled her students to grow as riders by leaps and bounds. Alicia’s thriving lesson program brought students from all over the Carolinas.
Over the years she has also made community outreach an important part of her passion for education. Alicia has often collaborated with organizations such as the Pony Club of America, Boy Scouts of America, as well as 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 an instructor. She has been riding from a young age and always had a passion for horses. 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 experiencing her first pony ride at a fair she was hooked and begged her parents to buy her one. In order to (hopefully) satisfy her relentless requests her parents sent her to a camp in North Carolina where she learned to jump in both the ring and on outside cross country courses.
After moving to Connecticut after college she bought her first horse and dabbled in eventing competitions while she pursued a career in law enforcement in New Haven. 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.
Now in North Carolina, 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, she began working with the Guiding Reins organization in order to be able to work with US veterans, the population dear to her heart as a result of her personal and family association with the military.
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