From the Field: Healing on Horseback

One graduate explains how he promotes mental health through equine-assisted therapies.

Posted on January 1, 2012

Gary MullenAs told to Christine Van Dusen
January 2012

“My daughter was born with spina bifida. She was always on the sidelines, watching her five siblings play, and I wanted her to be able to participate. I have trained horses for decades, so I started her off riding. We immediately saw tremendous results. The exercise is also great for mental health and promotes balance and muscle tone. This was in the 1980s, before therapeutic horsemanship became more commonplace. After I saw her improvement, I started working with more clients with disabilities, and soon after, the industry took off. My doctoral study at Walden focused on incorporating equine-assisted activities and therapies into higher education institutions, so the offer of the directorship at Rocky Mountain College’s equestrian studies program came at the perfect time. We recently received a grant that allows our students to work alongside therapy professionals to help people in the community. For me, there’s no greater satisfaction than helping a child who has a disability.”

— Dr. Gary Mullen ’11, Doctor of Education (EdD) graduate, director of equestrian studies at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.

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