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: Maggee Harrison

Our featured member is Maggee Harrison from Montana! Maggee is the therapeutic horsemanship program director at PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center Eagle Mount in beautiful Bozeman. Maggee is a PATH Intl. Certified Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. She first joined in 2003 because she was already a volunteer and wanted to be active in the EAAT community. Her favorite thing about our community she states is networking with fellow professionals to benefit the people we serve.

Can anyone guess Maggee's first career? It was large animal reproduction and physiology and she actually first learned about EAAT at the animal science meetings in North Carolina in 1981. When asked to tell us something about herself that most people don't know, she said, "I grew up in Woodstock, Connecticut. I am an open book - so there is very little I am unwilling to share!"

One of her favorite EAAT horses was her Irish Hunter, Golly Gee. "He was a forward moving cross country beast but the best 'babysitter' and protector a rider could ever have!" When reflecting on her participants she relayed that "Every one of them brings such special gifts to my life. If I had to choose one special rider in this moment I would have to say Heidi. She is challenged by seizures and was just diagnosed with terminal cancer. She is gifted with a natural seat and an amazing love of life despite her disability. There is no one I know who can take a helmet off and gracefully dismount in a blink of an eye like Heidi! She keeps us on our toes and we love her!"

PATH Intl. asked Maggee to share a life lesson she had to learn the hard way. She replied, "Never judge a book by its cover!" And a piece of advice she'd like to share with fellow PATH Intl. members is, "Get involved - let your voice be heard - and commit to making our association work for our members." Her wildest dream fulfilled for the next 50 years of PATH Intl. and EAAT would be, "That we continue to reach out to our members to get volunteers at their centers signed up - there is room in the tent for a lot more people. We need their input and support to make sure our industry continues to provide the people we serve with the very best service EAAT professionals can offer."

We asked her to complete the following sentence: When I wear my PATH Intl. logo (or otherwise display my affiliation), I feel: "Proud." Well Maggee, PATH Intl. is proud to have you as a member! Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place! Congratulations!

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!

Congratulations to Chelsea Packard the first PATH Intl. Member of the month for March!

chelsea packard 1Chelsea is with Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Loxahatchee, FL. She joined PATH Intl. in 2012 after completing an internship at Central Kentucky Riding for Hope a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Lexington, KY. She was a social work major and wanted to combine a love of horses and helping people. She saw joining PATH Intl. and becoming a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor as the first step toward a wonderful opportunity to use her skills and work her dream.

Chelsea’s favorite thing about belonging to the EAAT community? “I have loved the networking opportunities and resources that connect individuals from across the country who are using the same modality-horses, to impact the lives of others in life changing ways.”

A social worker and therapist, Chelsea worked in child and family services for over 7 years made up of jobs including child protective services. She first learned about EAAT in high school when she heard about a local therapeutic riding center near her home in south Florida-Vinceremos. She went to college in the horse country of Kentucky with the desire and passion to combine therapy and horses. While there she pioneered a collaborative, mental health internship between Asbury University and Central Kentucky Riding for Hope. It was there she realized the dream she’d had from a young age was possible and had the ability to be a sustainable career. Life took her home to Florida and Vinceremos as head of their EAAT programming for school groups, veterans services and youth in foster care.

chelsea packard 2When asked to tell us something about herself that most people don't know, she replied, “I participate in cowboy mounted shooting for fun, love to travel and have been to 12 countries, am quite goofy and I enjoy randomly bursting into song during a conversation when someone speaks lyrics and doesn't realize it!”

She states a favorite horse is, “Guinness, an 11 year old, 14.3, black and tan Quarter Horse gelding, an intricate part of the EAAT program. He would rather be with people than horses. He generally seeks out and joins up with the most anxious humans in my groups instantly and stands beside them. He makes people laugh and smile with a nuzzle of his muzzle and a nice deep exhale which covers them in dirt. He is expressive with his mannerisms during grooming and loves a good scratch on the chest and behind his ears. He is an active participant in EFP sessions giving authentic and genuine feedback. He has an unknown traumatic past involving being used for long trail rides, which causes him bouts of anxiety when placed in new situations where he must think and process for himself, rather than follow someone else’s lead. This allows participants to stay attuned to him and his needs, while they also practice developing their own healthy coping skills. He is able to regulate himself when his participants are successful in regulating their own emotions. His name stems from his coloring which also brings up additional conversations about alcohol and other negative coping skills. He has taught me a lot about the importance of relationships in the healing process.”

When recalling a memorable participant, Chelsea said, “I work with a lot of veterans, one in particular was a young veteran who served in Afghanistan and the Ukraine who struggled with the moral stress of the atrocities he experienced. He was extremely self-aware and always wanted to go deeper into the understanding of himself. Throughout his time working with the group of other veterans and horses, he was able to begin interacting with others during trips to the supermarket and slowly began to trust others. He was able to laugh during sessions and always took applicable takeaways after each group. At times he was quite challenging in his deep psychological thoughts, but working with him was also rewarding because he came ready to work on his stuff. Watching his trust in himself and others grow was so beautiful.”
A lesson she had to learn the hard way? “I have been learning the importance of self-care and boundaries. Realizing the hard way, that saying no, is acceptable and healthy when ones values are going to compromised.

She wishes to share to following advice with her fellow PATH Intl. Members.
“Don't ever compromise on all aspects of safety--psychological, emotional and physical. Please refer out to others when you are out of your area of expertise, and don't be afraid to reach out to others when you have questions, feel alone, and are struggling with the difficult parts of navigating the process of this business. The relationships I have formed with other professionals around the nation have allowed me to grow personally and professionally into the clinician I am today. I want to say a big "thank you!" to my friends and mentors along the way and who will be in the future.

When asked about her dreams for the future of EAAT she replied, “I am excited about the increase in evidenced-based research happening across the world, in the field of EAAT. This turns the "magic" we see into concrete, evidenced-based outcomes and principles that are replicable in various locations. Facilitating opportunities for healing and wholeness for others utilizing the relationship of the horse has been a dream come true. I wish for a day, where doctors are proactively and rapidly prescribing equine therapy as an effective service for individuals navigating life various challenges.”

Chelsea says when she wears her PATH Intl. logo she feels, “Connected to something larger than myself, a network of professionals across the globe working towards making life a little bit better for others." Thank YOU, Chelsea!


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