Although no longer with LEAP, Sam Quinlan is the original founder of LEAP the charity and we owe a great deal to her for bringing this work to the fore in the UK. Her creativity, innovation and dedication put LEAP on track to become what it is today, and changed the lives of clients and horses alike.
In her own words:
'Through my own experiences and journey into recovery, I found that horses played a large part in telling me where I was within my self, my lack of confidence, self worth, fear and much much more.
It has been my goal to develop an organisation that's main aim is to provide a therapeutic programme that is both beneficial for our horses and our clients.
What ever the primary issue from self development, illness to the autistic spectrum and trauma, Equine Therapy programmes enable us to get to the core elements that need to be processed, held and cared for.
My own story is still in the early chapters, and every day I learn a little more about myself and my horses.'
Leigh Shambo, MSW, is a clinical therapist and educator, registered Washington State mental health counselor since 2000, and the founder of the HEAL (Human Equine Alliance for Learning) model of EFP/L. She has brought her extensive knowledge and expertise to LEAP through workshops and trainings, and has been mentor and trainer for one of our directors, Ella Bloomfield, who originally trained at HEAL. Leigh is a frequent guest lecturer and has been invited to present workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. She is a member of the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Chapter of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) and the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, and an Advanced Instructor in Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning, certified by Linda Kohanov's Epona Center in Tucson, Arizona.
Therapist's Life Informs Her Work
Chehalis, Washington- Life doesn't always go according to our plan and no one knows that better than Leigh Shambo. A passionate horse lover since childhood, Leigh parlayed years in the saddle and a Bachelor of Science degree in animal science from Southern Illinois University into a successful career as a riding instructor and stable manager.
Then, in 1988 when she turned 31, fate intervened. A serious riding accident, followed by the death of her mother by suicide, left Leigh seriously injured both physically and emotionally. The combination of these unexpected events ended her "normal" life and left her vulnerable, incapacitated and in need of deep, authentic support to facilitate her recovery.
Over the ensuing decade, Leigh was forced to examine the residual scarring from her dysfunctional, alcoholic family while she slowly reclaimed her physical strength and resumed her horse training practice. During her rehabilitation process, she became attuned to the extraordinary sensitivity shown by horses during her emotional and spiritual healing. She fixated on horsemanship as a catalyst for human psychological growth, and began training for her second career as a mental health counselor.
Today Leigh has composed the elements of her life into a unique, successful human mental health and personal growth practice. She teaches workshops and individual sessions guiding people in a transformative blend of psychological savvy, energetic awareness and relationship building using horses as therapy tools. Her focus on emotional fitness, relationship skills and spiritual growth is facilitated by horses.
"The horses are responsive to each person's flow of consciousness," says Leigh. "They show attraction and cooperation with us when our intentions are authentic and empowered. A horse can function as bio feedback for the soul."
In today's culture, many people are conditioned to ignore input from their own senses. In some cases, the word 'professional' is a synonym for being inauthentic about one's real feelings. "Horses can help us bring our true feelings to consciousness and show us the value of staying close to our real feelings in each moment," Leigh believes.
"As I educate people about the healing aspects of the horse-human bond, I help people reconnect to the bodily experience of knowing and to the freedom to act upon that knowing," she says. "But," Leigh adds, "living close to your true feelings is not as easy as it sounds, it requires us to grow once we start listening carefully to our own heart.
And growth is not always simple or easy."