Since I graduated from college I have worked at a variety of jobs. I actually went to college twice. I graduated in 1974 from Goddard College with a BA in photography. I tried my hand at being a freelance photographer and managed to get a few jobs before taking a job at a camera store as I needed a steady income. I went back to college and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1981 with a BS in Natural Resources. Once again I was unable to find a position in my field and ended up doing many things for a number of years before I realized that what I really wanted to be was a teacher. I had done volunteer work for Maine Audubon for years and really loved being with children, sharing my time, knowledge and energy with these wonderful young beings. This led me to go to school once again to get my teaching credentials. Thus at age forty, I began a career that finally fit and paid me to do what I loved.
I worked in public education for fifteen years until I decided that while I loved teaching, it did not allow me to call upon my other passion in life, horses. I quit my job at the Gray New Gloucester Middle School and got certified as a therapeutic riding instructor and worked for eleven years for a non-profit located in Windham called Riding To The Top (RTT). At last I was able to blend teaching with horses. For eleven years I worked with a broad range of very special people ranging in age from five to sixty-five.. Our clients were all special needs riders with a variety of physical and emotional challenges. I learned a lot about horses, about myself and about the incredible resilience of my riders.
Four years ago we at RTT were approached by an organization called Crossroads for Women that provides services for adult women recovering form addiction. They came to RTT with their own mental health therapist as RTT had no therapists on staff. Six women came for six weeks for this pilot program. When they arrived for the first time, they were quite intimidated by our equine partners. None of these women had experience with horses. I started out by giving my safety talk and teaching the ladies how to interact with the horses in ways that minimized the chances of feet being stepped on a fingers ending up in horse mouths.
In the six weeks we were together I watched in awe as their new equine friends acted as catalysts for emotional growth and healthy introspection for the women. By the end of their time with us, the women had bonded with their equine partners to such an extent that many tears were shed as they bid farewell to the horses. The journey had been transformative not only for the women but also for me. I realized that this work, equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP), was what I wanted to do with the rest of my working life. It brought together not only my passion for teaching and my passion for horses but also my desire to partner with horses in ways that I never knew existed in service to others as they struggled with their challenges in life. It was at this point in my life that I called my long time friend, fellow horse person and therapist Sandy Fletcher to suggest forming our own non-profit to do EAP. Next time I will continue with how this all unfolded for me with the founding of Healing Through Horses.
Michael Fralich firstname.lastname@example.org