Unexpected Grace: How Horses Changed My Life

December 13, 2008 by  

The working title for a memoir I am writing is, “Unexpected Grace: How Horses Changed My Life” so this is the beginning of the story.  I believe it is in those spaces in-between what I call “holding the sacred space of possibility” that grace and guidance happens. I follow what Robert Johnson calls, “the slender threads” in his book, “Balancing Heaven and Earth” and at this stage of my life look back on people, circumstances, and experiences that have guided me, I know the nudges I followed were many times where the most significant changes occurred.    As a child and young adult I remember riding horses across fallow corn fields in Indiana with my cousins and feeling the wind in my hair and the pure joy of being in sync with these magnificent beings.  When I was older and had children every family vacation included at least one horse ride.  My youngest daughter, Meghan, tried many times to covince her Father and me to get her a horse but eventually had to settle for riding her friends’ horses or the horses at my sister’s ranch in Colorado.  I loved it all and have to admit I took much of it in stride until grace entered in and changed my life.

My grandmother, Frances Shea Klein, probably wasn’t doing anything extraordinary on the day this picture was taken.  This image of my grandmother, placed on my mantel with other family pictures, was one of many in an old photo album I found of hers.  Grace is why I believe this particular image was the one I decided to take and reprint for my sisters, children and Aunt.  My grandmother, gone many years, was such an important part of my early childhood and I love to think about her in this innocent, beautiful scene with the black and white working horses.  What was she thinking about?  Her whole life was ahead of her and I imagine she was out on a morning stroll and stopped to commune with the horses and maybe have a long chat.  Equine Facilitated Learning is a name for a new field of working with horses in human development but somehow I believe my grandmother already knew this.  Barbara Rector came to see me for some consulting and noticed this picture and asked “Are you a horse person, Kathleen?”.  Little did I know then where that question and her observation would eventually lead me.

Frances Shea Klein     Wisconsin 1908

Frances Shea Klein Wisconsin 1908

My first introduction to working with horses in this way was through Sierra Tucson in the1990’s.  At the time I was director of marketing and intake at the center for the treatment of addictions and co-dependency.  In a recent newsletter sent out by Sierrra Tucson honoring their 25 years of service , co-founder Bill O’Donnell is quoted saying, “In the beginning, we had more horses than patients.”   I wonder what the horses knew then that had not been revealed to us?  By the late 80’s we had 185 beds for adults with chemical dependency and other addictive disorders, and had acquired dual lincensure as a psychiatric hospital; a 72 bed eating disorder unit; and were in the process of building an adolescent treatment center.  Reed Smith was in charge of creating the new center for adolescents and he wanted to bring the horses in to work with the children. I called Reed a few weeks ago to ask him what made him decide to do this work.
Here is a portion of the interview I had with Reed:
“When I was eight years old my father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and became bedridden.  I had been with horses at my grandfather’s ranch and so turned to them for companionship during this time.  I had heard how the horses had helped my great Uncle when he was suffering from depression.  At that time there were not many “cures” for depression or what they called “melancholy”, however, I remember stories of how the horses “healed” my Uncle in the late 1800’s.  I grew up with this story so when I was struggling with the crisis of my Father’s illness I began to think about how this might be just what would help me.  I applied for my first wrangler’s job at 8 years old.  Well, I didn’t get the job but I started volunteering and working with the horses.  I learned to halter train them as foals and started them bareback.  When I was 11 years old I became a camp counselor for kids and worked with the camp in the summers until I was 18 years old.  The horses saved my life in many ways.  Horses as healers goes back thousands of years in Arabian families and we all know the stories of the horses in the Old West.  All of the years that I worked at the Bar L Ranch in Guthrie Center, Iowa we never had an accident with the horses and the kids.  I attribute this to [1] Safety[2] the relationship with the horse and human being the most important, the horses were not passed around or deadened [3] the horses were pasture bred and raised.  When the idea to work with the horses at Sierra Tucson, which was on the property of an old dude ranch where the horses could be ridden by the patients, I knew I wanted to create something like the Bar L.  I had heard of a woman, Barbara Rector, who was one of the founders of TROT in Tucson where the horses helped them work with handicapped children.  As soon as I met her, I knew she had the understanding and the vision to help me create this innovative program to work with the adolescents.  She was very safety minded, well trained and had a natural way of working with the horses which was full of respect and not technique.  Thus began the collaboration with Barbara a year before the center was ready to open.”
My next meeting was with Barbara to find out about her recollection.  Barbara had been the first person to ask me to work with her and her partner Ann Alden in Barbara’s program, “Adventures in Awareness”.  We recalled the other day that this was around 1994-95.  I began working with Barbara individually and then participated in several workshops before I started to teach what she called” taking therapy to the barn”.  I would work with them at workshops and did a lecture on the benefits of working with horses as co-facilitators.  We didn’t even have a name then but knew it “worked”.  As a practicing psychotherapist, I really saw the changes in the clients and referred many of my clients to Barbara and Ann.  I wanted to ask Barbara what she recalled of the “early” days in the field of equine facilitated learning and her time at Sierra Tucson in 1990-1993.
Barbara said,
“Reed hired me and we began our collaboration to put together the program at adolescent.  We called it STIRRP, Sierra Tucson Integrated Riding Resource Program.  Adolescent opened the the fall of 1991 and the program was a huge success with the adolescents and their families.  We began to see how much the horses impacted the children and the family system. In 1993 I presented a paper and a training video on the STIRRP program, then referred to as equine facilitated psychotherapy, to the International Riding for the Disabled Conference in Aukland, New Zealand.” Barbara can be contacted at www.adventuresinawareness.net
The curriculm and program developed intially by Barbara and Reed has undergone changes and the equine program at the center continues today and is fully integrated in the primary group process. www.SierraTucson.com
My next stop was a visit with Ann Alden down at her ranch in Sonoita where she lives with her 16 horses and her partner, Haus  When I asked Ann, “Why Horses?” she replied.
“Working with the horses has validated what I knew as a child and couldn’t express in words.  I remember reading a book called “Kinship with all Life” by J. Allen Boone when I was 16.  I would go out and sit in the grass and commune with the animals.  My relationship with animals as a child has continued into my life today and prompted me to take what I knew then and work with the horses in this area of human development.”
By the time the center at Sierra Tucson had opened, Wyatt Webb was the executive director and began his journey through the way of the horse.  Wyatt works today at Miraval and is the innovator of their successful Equine Experience program as well as the author of two books about his work with horses.  Wyatt and I worked together on the management team at Sierra Tucson in the late 80’s early 90’s.  I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that either one of us would be doing the work we are today.  You can contact Wyatt and find out more about the equine program at www.miravalresort.com
Through my work with Barbara and Ann I met Linda Kohanov and thus we began our collaboration in 1998 and we worked together until late 2007.  You can read more about my work with Linda under the Equine Facilitated Learning section of this website and can contact her directly at www.taoofequus.com
I think about my grandmother, Frances, often and would love to have a conversation with her about her early life, what she was doing with the horses, whether she loved them as much as I do, but most of all to thank her for the way she guided me to this work.  I really know that when we are open, we receive these gifts of grace in many unexpected ways.
Cisco at Yvonne Monahan's Ireland

Cisco at Yvonne Monahan's in Ireland

Memorian for Charlie McGuire & Nicole Christine

December 8, 2008 by  

Once in awhile you met an extraordinary person who changes your life.  I have had the honor to call Charlie McGuire and Nicole Christine my friends, my mentors, my colleagues and my sisters of the heart.  Both of these women have left this earthly plane this year, Charlie in May and Nicole in October, however their influence and presence is so profound that I sometimes hear their voices of support, encouragement and feel a personal challenge to be authentic and accountable.  Charlie was a graduate of the first apprenticeship class from Epona Equestrian Services and both Linda Kohanov and I count her as one of our guiding lights and mentors.  Charlie started the Holistic Nurses Association, and with her life partner, Robbie Nelson, founded Buffalo Woman Ranch www.buffalowomanranch.com where Robbie and her colleagues continue to teach, educate and support many in the field of equine facilitated learning and personal development. 

Charlie embracing life

Charlie embracing life






Nicole, recommended to Linda and myself by Charlie and Robbie, was the administrative assistant to the growing Epona program from 2002 through 2007.  Her dedication, honesty, integrity, and genuine positive regard for all gave us the solid foundation needed in this growing field of Equine Facilitated Learning.  Nicole was an avatar with deep spiritual beliefs and connections to the Magdalene energies.  You can find out more about Nicole at www.magdalenemysteries.com

Nicole at Summit 2007
Nicole at Summit 2007

My Dear Sisters,

Thank you for your love, guidance and for paving the way for all of us seeking a new way of living.
Blessings, love, and gratitude,


December 8, 2008 by  

HEAL Graduation 2008

HEAL and instructors, Leigh Shambo and Kathleen Barry Ingram, are proud to announce the premier class of graduates from the Facilitator Training Program.  Jean Ryan Brothman, Ella Bloomfield,  Samantha Heath-Lange, and Judith Kay successfully completed the program on October 25, 2008. 

 Leigh and I wanted to create, design, and implement a program which would encourage talented people to take the HEAL principles, teachings and philosophy to a wider audience of horses and humans.  These five individuals, with varied backgrounds and life stories, rigorously undertook the challenge to uncover hidden truths and gifts, thereby discovering their own unique way of presenting and teaching equine facilitated learning. 

We learned a lot this year ourselves, and we are confident that these individuals and others can take this paradigm shifting concept to horses and humans. It is time to change and influence how we all relate to each other and we gratefully acknowledge the guidance and wisdom our four legged companions give us on a daily basis.                                                   


 Here are the graduates in their Own Words:


Ella Bloomfield from the United Kingdom writes:   









Ella Bloomfield

Ella Bloomfield

“Horses have certainly been the healers in my life, but what began as a personal experience and an intuition that people and horses can heal together, has become for me, over the past year, a researched and abiding truth. The HEAL Facilitator Training Program taught me how to celebrate my individual strengths and bring them to a field that heals through the language of the heart. This approach to healing and personal development is a whole-istic experience for all involved – the client, the horse, the facilitator, and the larger circle surrounding each one.  This year has been life changing, and I now find myself, all of myself, embarking on a career with horses and people that is both personally meaningful and of great consequence in the world.”


Jean Ryan Brothman from Fort Valley, Virginia:


Jean Brothman & Magic

Jean Brothman & Magic





“HEAL is healing for humans and the horses. It is all about relationship with self through authentic communication and partnership with our equine companions.  Mind, body, and spirit work which reflects our true nature through the horse’s reaction to our being in the present moment. HEAL is essential healing on a myriad of levels. What a magical time of discovery my training has been and continues to be, never the same, always learning.”



Judith Kay from Colorado Springs, Colorado:


Judith Kay at Graduation

Judith Kay at Graduation







“During the final week of our training we were given the opportunity to conduct an individual EFL session with a client.  My client, Terry, had participated previously in Leigh and Kathleen’s workshop “Energy and Grace”.  Terry shared with me her experiences in the workshop before meeting the herd this time.  Even though she came to the workshop with little horse experience she overcame her anxiety and in the end was able to take her joyful engagement with Gem, Leigh’s wise older mare, into her everyday life.  Later, when it was necessary for her to have a scary diagnostic procedure, she visualized Gem and her doctor commented that he had never seen her so calm.  Terry chose Gem again and this time was able to halter, walk, groom and engage with Gem as they mirrored each other in gentleness.  The joy shone through Terry’s face, “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” Gem gave Terry and me the gift of opening our hearts.  Each of us trusted her to take us to the next level and she did it perfectly. I believe it is possible to carry this gift forward to being able to access and follow our hearts under other circumstances by overcoming some of our fears and opening ourselves to new experiences, and knowing fuller joy in living.  This is the healing, soul work of horses, the blessed ones who bless us with their knowing.”



Sam Heath-Lange from Lake Stevens, Washington:


Sam Lange Graduates

Sam Lange Graduates




 “Many horse owners come to riding instructors, as a client might come to a therapist; looking to a professional to fix their problem horse or solve their emotional issues.  What I have learned as an EFL facilitator is to listen without judgment, to empower people to look inside and to trust their gut, and to explore new ways of approaching issues that lead to healthier outcomes for both human and horse.”


 You can contact these facilitators:

Samantha Heath-Lange                                            

12724 128th Ave NE

Lake Stevens, WA 98258

Tel: 360-658-8980

Cell: 206-979-5963



Judith Kay

2732 Ron Court

Colorado Springs, CO 80909

Tel: 719-633-1979




Jean Ryan Brothman

2016 Boliver Rd.

Fort Valley, VA 22652

540 933-6225 Home

540 325-4900 (cell)



Ella Bloomfield                                                               

Nash Dom                                                                        

Hartley Bridge Hill                                                           



England, GL6 0QB                                                             

Tel: 01453 835825




Equine Facilitated Learning Opportunities in Tucson

December 8, 2008 by  

Kathleen invites you to experience EFL for yourself

Kathleen, Cutter and Rebecca Paradies

Kathleen, Cutter and Rebecca Paradies

in Tucson.  I work at the Ranch on River Road with Rebecca Paradies, www.paintinghorses.net and her horses, Peppy and Cutter.  We can work with you individually and also set up other possibilities with families, groups and working teams.  Kathleen can arrange for Indiviual and Family intensives for up to 3 days at the Ranch.  Contact her for more information and for other venues.