NEW GLOUCESTER — After five years of counseling people through equine therapy, the nonprofit Healing Through Horses is launching a fundraiser about all things equine to support its mission.
The group will host its Horse Professional Demonstration Expo at its facility on Meadow Lane from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30.
For an entry fee of $20 participants will have access to a long list of demonstrations from experts. Demonstrations will include equine dentistry, performance and trick training, general training and horsemanship, dressage, holistic and herbal horse care, youth horsemanship, hoof care, saddle fitting and several others. Children under 8 can attend for free.
Healing Through Horses co-founder Michael Fralich of New Gloucester will give a presentation about the group’s mission of helping people through therapy with horses.
“A thousand pounds of unconditional love, we like to say,” Fralich said about how horses can connect with people.
The organization practices Equine Assisted Psychotherapy — an approach that partners patients with horse companions who have an “innate ability to connect and bond with people in a nonjudgmental manner,” Healing Through Horses says. The therapy is usually one-on-one.
Healing Through Horses has grown over five years from a few clients and a couple of horses to about 80 clients and 10 equines, including a smaller horse and a donkey.
Clients are dealing with a variety of diagnoses, including attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and attachment issues. It offers individual and family therapy, as well as a group program for veterans.
The facility is at the home of co-founder Sandy Fletcher, a licensed clinician and social worker.
“I was always obsessed with horses. I had done a lot of experiential education work, and I had horses. So I did some training,” Fletcher said of her start in equine therapy. “I talked to someone who was already doing it, and their advice to me was to stay out of the way and let the horses do the work.”
Client Brandy Felts, 31, of Naples said she was drawn to the organization because it’s “different than any of the other therapies that I had been introduced to before” for her PTSD. Being around horses was preferable to an office visit, she said.
Felts works with the the same horse, Cyra, each visit.
“She’s just super calm and big,” she said. “If I’m upset when I get here and she’s so calm, it brings my energy down to meet hers.
“With other therapies, it’s hard to go. I’ve never missed an appointment here; I look forward to coming,” said Felts, who has been a weekly regular since May.
The fundraiser on Sept. 30 is new for the group, and they are excited with how it’s coming together.
Fralich credits horse trainer Chris Lombard, who serves on the Healing Through Horses board, for taking the lead in organizing the program and drawing on his extensive network in the horse community to bring in experts.
“He has taken on getting all of these people to come to us to actually donate their time and their expertise and their knowledge to help us raise some money for our program,” Fralich said.
“There’s nothing like this in Maine,” said Rebecca Thomas of New Gloucester, who has several roles at Healing Through Horses, including equine specialist and barn manager.
The organization hopes to draw between 300 and 500 people to the expo, and for it to become an annual event.
Brandy Felts of Naples greets her horse companion, Cyra, at Healing Through Horses in New Gloucester. Felts has been helping paint the barn in advance of the Horse Professional Demonstration Expo on Sept. 30.
Healing Through Horses founders Michael Fralich, left, and Sandy Fletcher, center, have been prepping with equine specialist Rebecca Thomas and the rest of their team for their first Horse Professional Demonstration Expo.
Healing Through Horses equine specialist Rebecca Thomas smiles as JD, one of the organization’s original horses, checks out a visitor.