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Member of the Month: Landa Keirstead

The first PATH Intl. member of the month is Landa Keirstead from California! Landa is the founder and program director of One Step Closer Therapeutic Riding Inc., a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Morgan Hill, California. Landa is a PATH Intl. Certified Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Mentor who left the medical field after 30 years to become an instructor in 2006 because she wanted to become a PATH Intl. Instructor and she "loved this organization!"

Landa shared that her favorite thing about belonging to the EAAT community is helping others. Her first career? A registered dental assistant who learned about EAAT from a friend. When asked to tell us something about herself that most people don't know, she said, "I am a twin!" Her favorite EAAT horse was Reba who was the center's first therapeutic riding horse and had been rescued from auction as a pregnant mare. She recalls the center's first participant Gabe as a favorite participant. "Gabe has Down syndrome, a love for the horses and a great sense of humor."

PATH Intl. asked her to share a life lesson she had to learn the hard way and Landa replied, "My life lesson involved a moment when my attention and focus were not there and subsequently I was injured by one of my favorite horses." This is a situation many of us can relate to. When asked for a piece of advice she'd like to share with fellow PATH Intl. members, Landa answered, "Our passion for helping people with horses is a special gift. It isn't easy sometimes but it means so much to individuals who may not have other opportunities." If she could have her wildest dream fulfilled it would be to have a covered arena they could use year round so they wouldn't have to cancel lessons due to weather, etc. We asked her to complete the following sentence: When I wear my PATH Intl. logo (or otherwise display my affiliation), I feel: "Very proud to be part of one of the best EAAT organizations helping people today."

PATH Intl. is proud to have you as a member, Landa. Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place. Congratulations!

Member of the Month: Cynthia Linsenbardt

The PATH Intl. Member of the Month for April is Cynthia Linsenbardt a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor from Bloomington, IN, who lends her expertise and passion to the fine folks at People and Animal Learning Services, Inc. a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center also in Bloomington.

Cynthia first joined PATH Intl. in 2011 to pursue instructor certification after a few years of volunteering at different EAAT facilities. She says her favorite thing about belonging to the EAAT community is that, “We are all on the same team - everyone is about helping the riders and caring for the horses, instead of competing and making money off of them.” She first learned about EAAT as a child in 4-H and went on to start her career in outdoor education. But when we asked her to tell us something about herself that most people wouldn’t know, she said, “I lied, my first career was making miniature saddles for model horses in high school!”
Her current horse Zella, is a favorite, “a Rocky Mountain Horse who was gracious enough to let me train her and had such a gentle calm spirit. She has taught me so much about riding correctly.” She recalls a favorite participant, “A young lady with little strength below the waist and delayed reactions, yet who is so brave to depend on her horse and volunteers to keep her safe, who is constantly smiling and joking and having fun. Through the right team of horse and people we were able to progress her so far in balance and confidence.”

A life lesson she had to learn the hard way? “That setbacks make you stronger. When I didn't pass the PATH Intl. Certification riding test the first time, I went and took lessons from a variety of people and ended up becoming a much better rider than I would have had I passed the first time, and for that I am very grateful! Whatever setbacks you face, if you are humble and accept them and make the best of them, they will make you stronger, better and wiser in the end!”
Cynthia says her wildest dream fulfilled for the next 50 years of PATH Intl. and EAAT might be, “That being a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor would be a viable professional career with a respectable salary, so instructors would not feel the need to go further into directing or programming to make a living, so they can continue doing what they do best-- teach!”

When she wears her PATH Intl. logo, she reported feeling, “A part of something good, that helps and values people of all abilities.” You are valued too, Cynthia! We’re so happy to be part of that something good WITH you!

Member of the Month: Boo Martin

Isabella (Boo) Martin retired early in 2018 after running PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center Touchstone Farm, home of Horse Power, in Temple, NH, for 47 years! She first joined PATH Intl. 32 years ago and her member number is 504! Initially Boo joined because she loved the people. She listed names that might be familiar to some—people like Marj Kittredge, Lyda McCowan, Pat Mullins, Bill Scebbi, Michael Kaufmann, Barbara Rector, Leslie McCullough, KC Henry, Molly Sweeney...the list goes on and on. “Mostly,” she says, “I wanted to be a part of what was happening in the profession of therapeutic riding...back then, we did not use the term therapeutic horsemanship because it was all riding. I was enthralled that there were other people out there who were doing the mental health part of horses. It was exciting to find fellow travelers!!! I have never left, nor have I ceased to be excited by the direction of PATH Intl.!”

Boo says, “My favorite thing of all is to find lifelong friends in the EAAT community. Together, we created a whole new ‘thing’ in this world. Seeing equine-facilitated psychotherapy and equine-assisted learning take off and be the fastest growing part of the EAAT community is such a thrill. Best of all, I have wonderful friends all over the country. As I retire from the day to day activities of a PATH Intl. Center, I have started a consulting business to help PATH Intl. Member Centers raise money and do the strategic planning necessary to grow and thrive. I love this field and its benefits to both people and horses and want to see the profession flourish!”

When asked for a piece of advice she’d like to share with fellow PATH Intl. Members, she said, “This field is an amazing one. There are few organizations that work so hard to help their members succeed. The spirit of collaboration runs throughout the entire PATH Intl. family. Everyone is eager to share their best strategies, lessons learned and important secrets to success. Everyone believes that together we are stronger! I strongly advise everyone to become a PATH Intl. member and center. The precautions and contraindications in the PATH Intl. standards manual, as well as the accreditation process, are a total roadmap to success. Having both of these valuable bodies of knowledge greatly helps to run a successful, safe and professional operation that truly changes lives.”

We asked Boo about her first career and she said, “I have always worked at the same farm. My college training was to be a teacher in a school. I moved all those skills to teaching in the ring and in the barn. My master’s degree is in nonprofit management and organizational development. I certainly used both my college and graduate degrees to run Horse Power and now my consulting business.” She first learned about EAAT from Marj Kittredge who tapped her on the shoulder at a horse show in MA and said, "You need to do therapeutic riding!” Marj invited Boo to visit her program, Windrush. She said, “I went that next week. I cried the whole day long and right then and there, committed myself and my farm to doing therapeutic horsemanship!”

Boo’s two favorite horses are her driving pair of black Welsh Cobs. “We have traveled thousands of miles together. They are not only wonderful driving ponies but they also work in our therapeutic riding program, our summer camp and our able-bodied lesson program. They swim in the pond, jump over courses and go on trail rides. They are truly treasures. It is an honor and a treat to have owned them and had them be such great partners.”

When asked about a favorite participant? “Ohhhh, where do I start!!!??? I guess if I really have to pick one it would be a woman named Annie. She came to Horse Power about 25 years ago with serious mental health issues. She fell in love with horses and riding. Not only did she begin to triumph over her difficult past, she began to create a new and healthy future for herself. She went on to demonstrate at the national NARHA conference that was held in Boston, MA. She performed a beautiful jumping demo. She then went on to apply for and get accepted to our Horse Power Instructor Training School. She graduated with flying colors and got her registered level certification with what was then NARHA. She taught at Horse Power for a while and then went on to college to get her degree in special education. She is now working as a teacher in the public school near the farm. She is happily married and has a beautiful daughter who is about 13. The daughter not only comes to our summer camp, but also rides and shows year around at the farm. She is one of our best riders! She is a 'barn rat' and a real team leader. This second generation family is certainly one that I am very, very proud of and love dearly!”

Boo says, “There are so many life lessons to be learned along the way. Probably the most important one is that anything can be accomplished with a team of people. Collaboration, connection and teamwork triumph over any problem or dilemma! The farm has always had an amazing team approach. Working together, we overcame severe weather, horse or people illness and death, lack of funding and other such problems. Armed with our team, we succeeded for 47 years!”

If Boo could have her wildest dream fulfilled for the next 50 years of PATH Intl. and EAAT she said, “I dream that EAAT is widely accepted as a primary therapeutic treatment by the medical and psychology professions. I dream that all people, regardless of their age or ability, can experience the joy, healing and connection with a horse. I dream that insurance reimburses these services so that centers can thrive financially without having to focus so much on fundraising or scarcity of money!!!”

The thing most people don't know about Boo is her love of travel. “The reason most people don't know this is that for 47 years, I worked at Pony Farm and Horse Power almost exclusively. It was an 80 hour a week commitment, a lifelong passion. It is exciting to now be able to consult with programs all over the country and also combine seeing new places. This is such a beautiful country and I want to see every state. My secret hope is to go to all the national parks!”

And lastly she said, “When I wear my PATH Intl. logo, I feel PROUD AND INSPIRED!!!” Thank you, Boo, for the generations you have inspired, for your smile, passion and kindness of spirit, and for being a shining example of how being a member of PATH Intl. should feel!

Member of the Month: Christy Schmitt

Today we introduce you to the first of two PATH Intl. members of the month for May, Christy Schmitt.

Christy is part of the fantastic team at Agape Therapeutic Riding Resources, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Cicero, Indiana. We asked Christy when and why she joined PATH Intl., and she said, “I joined PATH Intl. in 2016. I had been a stay-at-home mom of six kids since I was 19. I did not have any education past high school, and when I got a divorce in 2014 I was just working odd jobs to try to make ends meet. Agape hired me as a stable assistant, and due to their investment of time and resources in my life as well as their belief in me, I started my journey to becoming an instructor. I am now a site manager at one of our locations and feel blessed to be able to serve others in this industry as well as provide a good living for myself and my kids.” Christy says her favorite thing about belonging to the EAAT community is, “I was raised to have a servant's heart, and so being able to serve others, and help them see their ability to grow provides me with great satisfaction.”

Listing her first career as motherhood, a very noble profession, she first learned about EAAT through her time with Agape. What’s something most people don’t know about her? “Eagles and American flags make me smile and pause every time I see them.” We asked her to tell us about a favorite horse and a favorite participant. “My third horse, at age 11, taught me how to ride. He challenged me at every step and kept me on my toes in a new way with each ride. My will to one day work with horses full time, and my love for horses grew due to his strong will. My favorite participant challenges me to see life through eyes of appreciation and excitement. She isn't afraid to squeal when she is excited, admit when she's wrong, or ask a question when she doesn't know what to do. Her incredible determination to continue riding reminds me not to be ‘weary in well doing.’"

PATH Intl. asked Christy to share a life lesson she had to learn the hard way and she said, "’Fake it ‘til you make it,’” is a phrase I have heard whether verbalized or not my whole life. So, asking questions, or admitting I don't know the answer to questions asked of me, has been a humbling experience on more than one occasion. Horses don't allow us to be dishonest when we are working with them because they always do exactly what we ask.” A piece of advice she’d like to share with her fellow PATH Intl. Members? “I think this work is emotionally draining, and consistently challenging. I have started to realize that when I am pulling away from the people we serve by spending more time in my office or the barn; those are the times when I need to go sit with the families and participants. They, without fail, renew my passion and remind me of the ‘why’ behind what we do.”

If she could have her wildest dream fulfilled for the next 50 years of PATH Intl. and EAAT, what might that be? “I would love to help young people understand how achievable this dream and fulfilling this dream is, and see the number of certified instructors outweigh the need for them.” Christy says when she wears her PATH Intl. logo, she feels “...filled with pride. A mother of six, with no former education, and very little pride or self-worth left, became a woman who is proud to tell others about my profession. Not because of what I have done, or where I am, but because of the divine direction of God in leading me to a place that I can glorify Him by serving others in such a unique and powerful way.”

Thank you for the inspiration, Christy, and all the good work you do to help make this world a better place!

Member of the Month: Victoria Surr

Congratulations to our 1st member of the month for June, Victoria Surr.

If you’ve been to a PATH Intl. Conference and Annual Meeting, you’re probably already familiar with the warm smile and heart of Victoria Surr. If you haven’t met her, we hope you do because she is an instant friend. She and her charming father (who at conferences literally wore a nametag that said, “Dad” or sometimes “Victoria’s Dad!”) always had an exhibit at the conference representing the company Freedom Rider. Victoria founded Freedom Rider and was the president of the company for 20 years. She first joined PATH Intl. over 20 years ago when she had just started the company and she wanted to support (then) NARHA by becoming a PATH Intl. Life Member. It’s no surprise that when we asked what her favorite thing about belonging to the EAAT community is, her answer was, “Coming to national conferences!”

About her first career she states, “I have had many. Very first was Veterinary Assistant. Just before starting Freedom Rider, I was a freelance typesetter.” She first learned about EAAT while doing some research. Something most people don’t know about Victoria? She sold the company a couple years ago and has started a new career path in photography. She says her favorite horse is, “UC Rianna GCH, a 35-years-young Morgan mare who is my soul mate.” Victoria says she’s known way too many amazing EAAT participants to tell us about just one.

We asked her to share with us a life lesson she had to learn the hard way and she said, “I had a trainer who was helping me with a Morgan gelding who was very 'squirrelly' about everything. He would bounce off every imagined shadow and sound in all different directions. I spent a lot of riding time looking at his shoulders and the ground, wondering which way he would go next, and if I was going to end up on that ground under him. My trainer would say, 'Look up, pick a spot in the distance, and go there! Never mind what is on the ground, or what he might do right now, just look up and GO!' As with most students, I had to hear that over and over before I actually got it, and my trainer shortened it to 'Look up and GO!' As all of us who ride know, it worked. Look up and GO has become my mantra. When life under my feet is full of unknowns and shadows, I pick that spot where I want to be, and 'Look up and GO!'"

She wanted to share, “We are a wonderful group of people! So much love and cooperation between us. I am proud to be a part of this group,” and she wishes there would be more recognition for the services provided by PATH Intl. Members, Instructors and Centers.

If you’re ever in the charming Oak Bluffs, MA and see a big smile wearing a camera, introduce yourself because it just might be PATH Intl. Life Member Victoria Surr!

Be sure to visit the Freedom Rider booth at the PATH Intl. Conference, November 8-10, 2019, in Denver. There's a good chance Victoria will be there!

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