Equine Therapy: Healing Through Horses

Raised a Baptist, Robert Price didn’t quite get the whole saint thing. So, when he and his wife, Angela, came across a statue of St. Francis at their local lawn and garden center in March 2020, he knew little about the Saint from Assisi. Yet, the statue intrigued him – even more so after Angela shared what she knew about Francis and why he seemed to matter to so many people.

“He had this funny look on his face, and his eyes looked like they were about to tear up,” recalled Angela. “He reached down, scooped up the statue, and said, ‘You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I feel like we’re supposed to have this.’”

Even then, Angela had started thinking about slowing down. After a lifetime immersed in the world of horses and horsemanship, including 17 years as a farrier, she had started to think seriously about retirement. Physically taxing, it’s not the type of work one can easily continue without making some adjustments. So, after years of working for herself, she wondered what her life might look look like once she decided to call it quits.

Then in July, her daughter told her that Saint Francis Ministries was looking for someone to supervise its equine therapy program. Angela went online to check out the job and discovered she was amply qualified. She applied without telling her family, and a few days later, human resources called to schedule an interview.

“Now, I’m freaking out,” said Angela. “I’ve worked for myself for 17 years, what on earth am I thinking? Am I really qualified to do this? Is this going to be a disaster?”

Supportive, Robert urged her to do the interview.

She didn’t have to accept the position. Or, if they give her a pass, she’d be no worse off than before.

“So, I started praying,” said Angela. “I said, ‘I just want a sign. That’s all I want.’ But all I ever heard was ‘whatever happens, happens.’ That was not what I wanted to hear.”

The day of her interview, Angela hopped in her truck and drove from her farm in Falun to Salina West, home to Saint Francis Ministries’ equine therapy program. Nervous and still wondering whether she was crazy for even applying for the job, she searched for an open space in the visitor parking lot. It was already full of cars, but she finally found the only open spot in the entire lot – right in front of the campus statue of St. Francis of Assisi.

“So, I’m sitting there, looking at that statue, and the scene from March flashes in my head,” she said. “’Oh, my gosh,’ I thought. ‘I had a sign before I even knew it was a sign.’”

All her anxiety disappeared immediately, and during her interview – before a panel of three interviewers – she felt perfectly comfortable. She answered every question with ease.

When Robert called later to ask her how it had gone, Angela answered, “I really want this job.” And she got it.

Now, Angela conducts equine-assisted learning and experiential therapy groups for youth struggling with trauma and works closely with staff therapists in equine psychotherapy sessions. She also teaches horseback riding to youth in Saint Francis care at Salina West. She calls it her dream job.

“The second I saw that statue of Saint Francis in the parking lot, I felt that I was meant to be here,” said Angela. “Just being in a position to help these kids understand that they can do this and that someone believes in them … well, that’s life-changing. I feel blessed to be a part of that every day.”

To read the full version of our Spring 2021 HiLites, click here.

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Shane Schneider

Shane is the Editorial Content Manager for the Marketing and Communications Department at Saint Francis Ministries.

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