Over the last 5 years, I’ve attended many trainings, workshops, networking meetings and conferences. I’ve met some of the most amazing, inspiring people who are courageously following their passion to bring equine assisted growth and learning services to their communities. Most everyone I know that is practicing EAGALA is “coupled up.” Well, of course! We need to find a soulmate -er teammate, as this model requires a team approach, right?
For some reason, in my head, I thought I needed to find “the one.” This mythical MH would share my vision and ethics for business, would work as hard and sacrifice as much time and money as me, and would pour their heart and soul into this work like I have. I’ve met many EAGALA teams that have seemingly found this in one another. I watch them at conferences in their matching shirts, huddled up during arena presentations, intensely discussing the methods on display. All this while I sat alone. I didn’t, and haven’t yet, met an MH who is ready to walk away from their private practice or academic career to roll the dice with me and bet on a full-time career offering EAGALA Model services.
Since I didn’t yet have the “one” partner, I decided to start where I was with what I had. Over the years, I have worked with 8 different MH’s. I have learned something from each one of them – about mental health issues and therapies, techniques with clients, ethical issues, and, of course, my ‘S. Each time I have had high hopes that they would be my EAGALA soulmate, and each time the relationship has achieved completion. I have never left one of those relationships without learning something about myself and what kind of practice I want to create.
Currently, I work with three MH’s. Each one of them brings a specialty to the practice that is uniquely different from the other. As a result, the organizations (a for-profit and a nonprofit) are able to offer diverse EAP & EAL services to a wide population of clients.
I have since let go of the need to find “the one.” I have reframed my thinking about finding a teammate. I engage each MH in a discovery process. This takes time, and is not always apparent through our first few meetings, sessions, or inevitable conflicts. Through it all, I have learned what is essential to me when assessing a new teammate relationship:
Today, I am lucky enough to work with variety of talented mental health professionals who check every box for me. I feel honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the arena. Letting go of the need to find my EAGALA soulmate has allowed me to tap into a rich diversity of mental health professionals who bring our EAGALA practice with the horses to the next level. The truth is I have already found my EAGALA soulmates. They spend their days eating grass with their herd and transforming the lives of clients.
My Journey Thus Far...
In 2011, I attended my first EAGALA Part I training. I went on a whim, curious to learn more about how horses were helping people with different emotional growth and learning goals. As we went around the circle introducing ourselves, I suddenly felt wildly out of place. Seemingly, everyone was there with specific professional intentions – many already involved in an EAGALA Model ® business of some kind. I was just there out of curiosity! Did I belong? Despite my insecurities, I had such a profound personal growth experience at the training, that I knew this was my life’s work. But, now what?
I finished my certification training in 2011. In 2012, I formed my company, Divinely Equine LLC. Like many beginning their EAGALA career, I struggled finding the other half of my team. Very few people, institutions, businesses, or organizations had ever heard of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning. I didn’t have a farm or even a horse for that matter. Many potential clients were curious about the nature of “the work,” but were road-blocked by issues such as liability, money, and transportation.
Over the last four years, I have engaged in a process of building a foundation for my business. This process has been extraordinary in the many challenges and successes I have navigated. In 2015, while facilitating an EAGALA Model team building experience, I was encouraged to start a nonprofit by my clients. While I knew my heart was always in providing services to those in need (over the years, often, at my own expense), I admittedly knew very little about developing and running nonprofit organizations.
Thankfully, I was connected to several people who were skilled in the nonprofit sector, and helped me
navigate the process. I made the decision to split Divinely Equine into two distinct organizations:
Gateway HorseWorks, a 501(c)(3) public charity offering transformational Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to children, adults, and families in a healing, farm-based environment, and WorkHorse, an Equine Assisted Professional Development firm serving the organizational needs of teams who aspire to bring new levels of collaboration, innovation, and creativity to the workplace. Both businesses continue to grow and develop as the awareness and efficacy of Equine Assisted Growth & Learning is recognized in our communities and worldwide.
Kristen de Marco is an Equine Specialist with a lifetime of experience riding and training horses. She gained her EAGALA® Certification in 2011, and was educated at Villanova University in Communication Arts & Psychology. READ MORE