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You’ve heard of therapy dogs, how about therapy horses?

Therapy horse enjoying a snack.
Therapy horse enjoying a snack.

It’s no secret that there’s an ongoing mental health crisis for America’s teens. A study published by the CDC in 2021 showed “more than 4 in 10 (42%) students felt persistently sad or hopeless and nearly one-third (29%) experienced poor mental health.” This is coupled with their study of suicidal thoughts: “more than 1 in 5 (22%) students seriously considered attempting suicide.” With statistics like these, mental health organizations are working to implement awareness in school systems. But the thought of traditional talk therapy could be worrisome for some students, that’s why organizations providing mental health services are spreading the word about alternative options.

In Step With Horses is a nonprofit organization based in Chesterland that uses equine therapy as a way to help people of all ages. Equine therapy includes horses and a connection to nature to approach psychotherapy. Founded in 2017, In Step With Horses has 15 team members and is led by President Melissa Hauserman.

“We [the founders] were all helping people with horses and their mental health and we just thought we needed, in the area, a new way to expand and do more work with more people in a more flexible way.”

Hauserman emphasizes providing participants with sensory and mind-body activities with selected therapy horses, and In Step With Horses wants adolescents to have an outdoor experience.

Ann Trocchio, who is head of counseling at SHS believes that In Step With Horses has an approach that could ease the nerves of some looking for therapy, noting that asking for help is not a weakness, but a sign of strength.

“I think any [type of] therapy has a stigma around it because, as humans, we are admitting there is something is not right with us, and that’s very difficult,” said Trocchio. “I believe that any time anyone is engaged in any therapy it feels like a weakness…I love the idea [of getting adolescents outside with nature] it’s very much needed.”

Molly Easley, who volunteers with In Step With Horses, said that their organization doesn’t just help teenagers.

“I appreciate our mission, and that we are trying to make mental health services more accessible to the general community,” said Easley. “We serve our veterans and first responders free of charge, and I love that we are trying to break down barriers by increasing services and access to those services, particularly counseling, through connections with animals and nature.”

As the mental health crisis begins to be talked about, organizations like In Step With Horses are ready to help those in need with flexible options and different approaches. Their intention is to spread the word that therapy options outside of traditional talking are available.

Instagram: @instepwithhorses
Address: 7212 Wilson Mills Road, Chesterland, Ohio 44026

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