FAQ answered by Christina Smith
PFC Christina Smith ARNG, a native Californian, grew up in Orange County, and rode horses at the Rocking T Ranch. As her interest in horses expanded, she taught lessons at Fun With Horses in Anaheim, and rode Police Horse Officers on the side. In 2011, Christina joined the Army National Guard, where she was transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for training. Once back in California, she met and married Cpl Cole Smith, USMC (ret), who received his Purple Heart for injuries incurred while on duty in Afghanistan. Cole’s story has brought Christina to Rising Phoenix Equine Rehabilitation, where she has become passionate about equine assisted therapy for veterans and current service personnel.
Christina has seen great improvement from the use of equine therapy in physically and mentally disabled adults from exposure to equine therapy during her instructing years. She has recently seen her husband, Cole, display a calm and relaxed demeanor around the horses when minutes earlier he was stressed and agitated. We encourage all who are interested to schedule a visit to the farm to see the facilities and the positive atmosphere that the farm provides.
How will active duty members and veterans get to the farm?
We have set up services through the DAV, The Military Order of the Purple Heart and other volunteers to provide transportation for the service members and veterans to the farm. Also, participants are able to take their POV, if they prefer.
How will we know that participant confidentiality is kept?
All our staff is required to sign confidentiality agreements for the protection and safety of our participants. No private or group classes outside of the program are scheduled during class times to assure that no distractions occur and confidentiality is kept.
How will I be able to track my patients progress?
All observations by our EAGALA certified therapists will be relayed to the providers via the media of your choosing (email, letter, phone call, etc.) We understand that communication with the providers is essential to track the participants progress and adjust the plan of action as necessary. We encourage our participants to discuss their experiences with their providers to promote proper paths of communication. We also encourage the providers to ask questions of our therapists to insure that they are completely involved.
Will there always be an EGALA certified therapist present?!
If an EAGALA certified therapist is unable to be present during the program hours, certified social workers from the San Marcos Veterans Service will take their place to assure that a qualified professional is present to observe the participants and insure that they will be provided adequate emotional and mental support. All observations will then be relayed to the provider by the social worker, so that at no time will the provider be unaware of their patients progress.
Who else is involved in the classes?
In addition to the certified EAGALA therapist, an EAGALA trained equine specialist is also required to monitor the horses behaviors and reactions to the participants and ultimately assure that safety is the top priority at all times. Other staff of the Rising Phoenix Equine Rehabilitation Center may be utilized to assure that proper care is taken with horses that may have certain disabilities, limitations or injuries from which they are currently recovering, but will not be involved with any assessments of the participants themselves. They are strictly there to aid the horses and are bound to confidentiality agreements for the privacy of the veterans and service members.
How are horses different from other animals?
Like many other animals, horses are compassionate, empathetic and able to reflect the feelings of their handlers. What makes horses different are their sheer size. A 1200 lb animal that is gentle and submissive enough to allow 200 lb humans to lead, groom, and ride them allows the handler to display a unique confidence that is not found in people who handle much smaller creatures. By allowing the participants to connect with a creature that displays many of the same reactions of men and women with PTSD, such as hyper vigilance, the service members are able to observe the horses behaviors and create a deep bond that builds trust and teaches them coping skills that other more dominant or extroverted animals simply cannot emulate.