There are so many wonderful things to do with horses, but for non-profits it is important that we “stay in our lane”. I thought it would be helpful to lay it all out in black and white as far as what Crossroads does and does not do.
What We Do:
Equine Assisted Mental Health– also known as Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). We provide our sessions to Veterans who suffer from PTSD and their families as well as youth and women who have suffered trauma abuse and neglect. All sessions are conducted by our Licensed Mental Health Professionals and Certified Equine Specialists. All sessions take place on the ground, there is no riding involved. Optimal results achieved in much shorter time frame than traditional therapy.
Equine Assisted Learning- these sessions focus on building life skills and are most commonly conducted with youth or business professionals to focus on team work. Certified Equine Specialists utilize the horses to help clients learn about building confidence, communication, trust, empathy boundaries and more. All sessions take place on the ground, there is no riding involved.
Saddle Up Saturday (Fundraiser)- An opportunity for youth to come and learn about horses, we try to schedule these once a quarter
Ladies Horsemanship Workshops (Fundraiser)- An opportunity for women to enjoy time on the farm and learn about horses and horsemanship.
What We Don’t Do:
Therapuetic Riding- We do not conduct therapeutic riding lessons for individuals with disabilities. While this is incredibly meaningful work, we decided to fill in the gap for mental health. Why duplicate a service that many other organizations are already doing in Central Florida?
Public Riding Lessons- Our horses and team are so busy with therapy that we do not have the time to conduct public riding lessons
Birthday Parties- Due to the therapeutic nature of our mental health work, we do not conduct birthday parties/pony rides/parties.
At Crossroads Corral, it is very important for us to stay true to our cause and our mission. I hope that if you had any questions regarding our services that you now have a clear picture of exactly what we do and how we serve!
When people learn that we use horses to help people, their mind immediately goes to riding. I am here to explain why our therapy clients don’t ride in our sessions and the great benefits of working with the horses on the ground for both horses and humans.
First I want to talk about basic horsemanship. Any good horse person knows that when you purchase or adopt a new horse, the first thing that you should do is ground work. By this, I mean spending time building the relationship with the horse on the ground. This is so important for building trust, learning how to communicate with each other and building a strong bond. This is similar to any human relationship. When humans meet each other, much “ground work” is done prior to advancing the relationship. You don’t ask someone to marry you on the first or second date, right? Well I hope not anyways!
Working with the horses on the ground helps us to learn about ourselves and our behavior patterns as well as build a relationship with another “being”. The horses provide honest, un-bias feedback to our body language, non-verbal communication, and feelings/fears that we don’t even know is there sometimes.
Here are a few reasons why our therapy program is incredibly effective and only involves ground work:
This work of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is tried and true across the county. We have specific curriculums and activities that we complete to obtain maximum therapeutic benefit and all activities involve working with the horse on the ground.
We are NOT a therapeutic riding facility. We chose to focus on mental health vs. serving individuals with physical disabilities. Therapeutic riding is extremely helpful and effective for those with physical disabilities such as Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, etc. There are many great facilities that focus on therapeutic riding, which is one of the many reasons we decided to specialize in mental health.
When we are standing next to a 1200lb animal, it can be intimidating and push us outside of our comfort zone which helps us grow. On the flip side, clients feel connected with their horse when they walk side by side and they build confidence.
We want our horses to be authentic, honest and true for our mental health work vs doing something they have been “trained” to do. When our clients come to us and they are full of anxiety, the horses often present as anxious as well. This is easy to see and manage from the ground but could be a recipe for disaster in the saddle with an inexperienced rider. When the client sees the horse being anxious, it helps them to realize how they are presenting to the world. They can also learn how to manage their anxiety through the activities with the horse.
The age or history of the horse isn’t a factor! Many of our horses are older and they are able to have a wonderful purpose and serve others in our work. We also have horses who have been rescued and suffered their own trauma which can be instrumental in a clients therapy session and their healing.
Our horses are able to serve clients who have no interest in riding. We have had clients that said, “I can’t do your program, I was thrown from a horse when I was 12”. When we explain there is no riding involved, they are pleasantly surprised and happy to sign up. This also gives us a chance for our horses to erase any bad horse memories.
In conclusion, we are a facility devoted to serving individuals and groups with Equine Assisted Mental Health services and we are not a therapeutic riding facility. All of our therapy sessions take place on the ground with a Licensed Mental Health Professional and Certified Equine Specialist. There are so many incredible benefits of working with horses on the ground including helping us to become self-aware, heal and grow. This work is being done across the country and over the last four years, we have seen incredible results in our very own program with our horses who love to do this work!
We are SO excited to be moved into our new home! The farm is just over 5 acres, with large fields, an 8 stall barn with attached paddocks, plus the minis have their own small barn and turn out! We have a brand new, lighted riding arena as well as a beautiful shaded round pen for therapy. This year we will be getting a new building that will hold a bathroom as well as an office! We love the water views, natural wild life and our horses are truly so happy here!
Address: 6879 S. Sylvan Lake Drive, Sanford Fl 32771
We are minutes from the back gate of Heathrow and a few miles from I-4.
Thank you to all of our incredible volunteers and supporters who helped make this move happen!
We are so exited to introduce our friends to our new home in the Heathrow/Sanford area!
New Address: 6879 S. Sylvan Lake Dr, Sanford 32771
The property is over 5 acres and has water views, an 8 stall barn plus a home for our miniature horses. The property is extremely peaceful and beautiful! We have seen many deer and cranes roaming the property and enjoying the peace and quiet!
“Horses teach you a lot. Very little of it actually has to do with horses” –unknown
2017 has been an exciting and busy year on the farm! We are so thankful to our passionate volunteers, supporters, board of directors, horses, clients and team who make this work possible! This year we had a large focus on growing our Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Program to serve more clients with exceptional mental health services right on our farm.
Here are some highlights from 2017:
We grew our therapeutic program by 107% this year, providing 174 sessions in 2017 vs. 84 sessions in 2016
We were presented with an award this year as the “Community Impact Organization” being recognized by another incredible non-profit organization as well as the Seminole County Sheriff for our work
We have provided over 2,000 volunteer hours
We began a new program for the Caregivers of Veterans which was incredibly impactful for all involved
We continued our relationship with Community Based Care of Central Florida serving youth in foster care with our services, including providing a group workshop to 15 high school aged youth as part of the First Star Academy
Each of our fundraising events were more successful than the past events, thanks to incredible supporters like YOU!
We have been able to continue serving Veterans and their families with mental health services free of charge
We were able to retain grants from The Florida Blue Foundation, Lawrence E. White Family Foundation and we obtained a new grant for 2017 from Helpful Hands Inc.
With the good comes the bad and we can’t acknowledge this year without mentioning the loss of two incredible therapy horses, our Amaretto “Retta” and Windy Hills Angel Eyes “Angel”. We miss these girls more than words can say!
We have some exciting plans for 2018 so please stay tuned! Make sure to like our Facebook page to keep up with our updates and events!
See Ya NEXT YEAR! Wishing our friends a blessed 2018!
As Thanksgiving approaches, it is a wonderful time to reflect on the year and what we are thankful for. As an organization, we are so thankful to be able to provide a life changing and meaningful service to others through horses, but we certainly cannot and do not do this alone.
Because of you, we are able to provide our Mental Health services to Veterans who suffer from PTSD and their families, youth and women who have suffered trauma, abuse and neglect at NO to very LOW cost. If you have donated to our organization, attended events, sponsored a horse, promoted us on social media, referred a client or became a community partner, WE THANK YOU! If you have given your time to our organization in any capacity, we are so thankful.
Where do donations go? Our team is more than happy to volunteer our time to serve, we raise money to provide the necessary care for our horses, otherwise known as our “equine therapists” so that they can have their needs met and be in optimal health to serve others. Just to give you an idea of what I mean:
Our Typical Monthly Expenses for Horse Care Include:
-Horse Boarding (payment to our landlord for the horses to be on the property $1500/month)
-Feed (approx. $300/month)
-Hay (approx. $850/month)
-Farrier (horses need their feet trimmed/re-shoed every 6 weeks approx. $400/month)
*This does not include any Vet visits, farm equipment, repairs and other things that are required to run our operations
When donating to our organization, you are providing a life changing experience to someone in need in our community. Mental Health is incredibly important, often overlooked and and we provide a way of delivering this service in a unique and powerful way. We could not take on this battle alone and we are so thankful to those who have decided to support our mission and those we serve.
In this season of giving, we hope you continue to support Crossroads Corral and help us to fill in the gaps of mental health!
When we began this journey of sharing our horses with the community to change lives, veterans and their families were #1 on our list. Our founders felt inspired to serve those who have returned home from war and are having difficulty re-integrating back to civilian life. The veterans who have children at home, new husbands and wives who have been so anxious for their return, civilian jobs to obtain post military career, school to finish and many, many years of life ahead.
As civilians with no experience in the military, we had a lot to learn. We learned about PTSD and became certified to conduct Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning specifically for that. We had to learn about military ranks, lingo, etc. Most importantly, we had to gain the trust of our clients and their families as we can never understand what they have been through because we have never been in their “combat boots” or in their family home while their loved one is fighting for our country.
We have been so blessed to meet so many of our local veterans and here are some characteristics that we admire from our experiences with them on the farm:
Professionalism– Our veteran clients typically show up on time (or early) for sessions. They take the therapy seriously and each activity becomes a “mission”.
Resilience– We have met so many veterans who have seen and been through more than our civilian brains can understand. Here they are, in front of us, continuing to fight. Fighting to deal with PTSD, fighting to be there for their family. Whether the wounds are visible or invisible, they are working to move forward with life after war.
Willingness to help and continue to serve– We have conducted many service projects with veterans in our community and each one has left us with incredibly grateful hearts. Whether it was a planned event or a last minute Facebook shout out for help (we had a huge last minute hurricane debris clean up party) our veterans and their families show up to lend a helping hand. Many groups such as The Mission Continues do incredible volunteer work throughout the country!
Bravery– Of course our military members are brave is probably what you are thinking. I agree 100%! However, dealing with PTSD is often un-chartered waters for veterans and their families and battling this and confronting it head on requires great bravery.
Willingness to teach others about safety- I feel like our team has gotten some of the best safety training possible from our veteran friends! We have been taught to always look at our surroundings, never text when walking or when you should be paying attention to prevent being a victim, how to “take down” someone who is trying to attack you and so much more!
The horses make incredible partners for our veterans to battle their PTSD. During our sessions, the clients conduct specific activities with our horses that help them to self-discover and learn their behavior patterns and coping skills. We are able to help veterans deal with their trauma without having to talk about it or re-live it.
In the military, there is “no man or woman left behind”. This is exactly how we feel as an organization, we are here to serve our veterans and their families and we don’t ever want to leave anyone behind.
Crossroads Corral would like to thank all veterans for their service. We deeply appreciate all of you and we honor you every day.
Dr. Fasula reflects on her work in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and her experience with her clients at Crossroads Corral:
As a clinical psychologist and horse enthusiast that is EAGALA certified, I started a private practice in downtown Chicago focusing on psychotherapy and neurofeedback, while also offering clients Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Although many of my Chicago clients were interested in EAP, the closest facility was 60 miles outside the city, making it too logistically challenging.
After moving to Central Florida and opening a new practice, which also focuses on neurofeedback and psychotherapy, I have been delighted and thankful to find Crossroads Corral. There are many cases where the in-office experience only takes a client so far, and I appreciate the opportunity to offer EAP as an experiential aspect to mental health.
For my clients who have plateaued with the in-office experience and participated in EAP, all have made significant gains after a few sessions. As an example, I’ve worked with a teenage girl for close to a year that suffers from debilitating anxiety, which inhibits her ability to complete schoolwork and even attend school. She has also been working regularly with a family counselor and a psychiatrist for almost two years. Despite her continued treatment, she was barely passing her classes, and her parents could not get her to start her homework. To-date, she has completed five EAP sessions, and her mother reported that she is sitting down every day to complete her homework, and her grades have improved across the board. She told her mother, “Moose (her horse) killed my anxiety.” She has related to the horses and transformed her experiences at Crossroads into positive outcomes in her life.
Family work becomes more meaningful and inclusive when working with the horses. Typically, the biggest issue with family therapy is getting everyone to show up and actively participate in treatment. Gathering your entire family in a therapist’s office is intimidating and can feel threatening. Often times the “he said, she said” battle ensues, which can cause some to shut down and others to lash out, which significantly inhibits progress. Within minutes of an EAP session at Crossroads, family dynamics are apparent, and the therapeutic activities compel each family member to work together to accomplish a cooperative task. To date, I have received nothing but positive feedback about the EAP experience and am excited to offer such a unique and powerful tool to my clients.
Dr. Amber Fasula Psy.D., BCN
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Board Certified in EEG Biofeedback
2017 is off to a great start at the Corral! Here are a few highlights of our first quarter that would not be possible without our “herd” of supporters!
We wrote for and obtained a grant from Helpful Hands Inc, to provide 10 individual scholarships to at risk youth living in Seminole County. Each recipient will receive 6 sessions of our Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) Life Skill work, free of charge to their family. We were also granted funding to begin two at risk youth groups who will also receive 6 group sessions free of charge. Sessions have begun and we are still sending out applications.
One of our incredible therapists, Kathy Wilkes, LMFT has much experience working with traumatic loss, bereavement and also the stress of caregiving. This year, we opened our gates to Gold Star Families as well as began a Caregiver support, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) group as part of our veteran/military program.
In February, two more Equine Specialists and another Licensed Mental Health Counselor were officially certified by the O.K Corral Series to help us with meeting the needs for our work in the community.
We kicked the year off with the addition of a new board member, Rebecca Peeples. Rebecca is a CPA with 25 years of experience and is passionate about serving others and loves the outdoors. We are excited to have her on board to help us with our financials and more!
Under the guidance of Dr. Amber Fasula who is an incredible clinical Psychologist we have partnered with, we added more clinical data to our program that is conducted Pre and Post with clients to gain more evidence of the benefits of our work and continue learning areas where we can improve
Our Therapy program has grown tremendously in this first quarter!
The year is off to a great start, our therapy team and clients served has grown tremendously in the last three months! We appreciate your continued support as we follow our mission to promote personal growth, hope and healing through horses and serve Central Florida!
Our team has experience working with youth who are involved in the Department of Juvenile Justice system as well as youth who are “at risk” of offending and becoming involved in the DJJ. We also work with youth who are having trouble in school or struggling with behavioral outbursts at home. No matter the background of the client, when they walk through our gates, they are stepping into an unfamiliar world that is peaceful, nurturing, judgement free, but can also be scary. This allows for our clients to grow in a way that can only happen when they are outside of their comfort zone.
In our experience, here are a few reasons why this work is powerful for this population:
Develop Self Control
-The sheer size of the horses often cause clients to take a respectful step back, even those who have behavioral outbursts will often contain them in the presence of a horse.
Improve Problem Solving and Self Confidence
-When youth come to our farm, they are presented with unpredictable, unscripted scenarios in which they have no previous experience ( most clients have no horse experience). The skills that clients use to accomplish tasks are actually being practiced and adapted in the moment. Mastering problem solving skills in a setting like ours helps to strengthen a clients’ self-confidence as they complete tasks initially thought to be beyond their ability. (Example- catching and placing the halter on a horse with minimal instructions, getting a horse to go over an obstacle without touching them in any way).
Receive Immediate Feedback
-One of the most unique aspects of Equine Assisted work is that horses offer immediate feedback and reactions to behaviors presented to them. Clients who impulsively jump into a situation without thinking of possible consequences will likely see some immediate effect displayed by the horse. We see this commonly in youth but horses teach youth to take a step back, think and problem solve before jumping into a situation. How important is that lesson for everyday life?
Build Non-Verbal Communication Skills
-Youth learn quickly to say what they think their parent, therapist or probation officer wants them to say. In our work, we are not focused on the verbal communication, we are focused on the non-verbal. This is so powerful because it is really hard to “fake” non-verbal communication!
Learn to Utilize New Resources
-We also frequently discuss utilizing resources for help during our sessions. With almost all of the activities, we have resources available for the client to use. Some clients utilize resources right away, others never ask for help or utilize any other tools but themselves. This gives us great information that we can discuss with them.
Develop Emotional Bonds
-We also have to mention the bond that develops between the horses and clients. The horses have an incredible way of showing attention and love to those who need it, exactly when they need it. We have seen our horses give clients “horse hugs” when they are sharing an experience that is hard for them to talk about.
I am a big fan of the book, “The Tipping Point” by Malcom Gladwell. He discusses the idea of behaviors having “stickiness”. Our work has the stickiness factor because our clients are often outside of their comfort zone, having an experience and self- discovering as compared to just merely listening and talking. They remember what they did, how they felt and the outcome of the situation which makes the lesson “stick” and leads to change.
We are proud to serve at risk youth at our farm. We provide both Equine Assisted Learning opportunities which focus on life skills as well as Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (counseling) with our Licensed Mental Health Professionals. If you know of a youth who would benefit from our services, please contact us!