Horse Heart Connection

Expanding horse-human communication.


August 2015

LEAP for Success

Leadership Success with LEAP


The kids and the horses are happy to be together again out on the Chief Joseph Foundation Appaloosas land this year. Students for Success Tribal Youth Program has continued the Lapwai Equine Assisted Program now in its third summer. Equine Assisted Educator, Linda Kingsbury from Horse Heart Connection, Agnes Weaskus from Students for Success, and Donna Henry from NMPH Behavioral Health work as a team to bring LEAP opportunities to the kids. We are fortunate to have the continued support of two parents Shane and Jo Auginaush as volunteers out in the field.


Our LEAP missions is: Lapwai Equine Assisted Program provides experiential learning activities with Appaloosa horses for building self-respect, effective communication, leadership skills, and restoring Nez Perce horse heritage for the well-being of the tribe, the horses, the land, and the community.


EAL (Equine Assisted Learning) programs are a holistic approach to health promotion. LEAP is a culture based model of resiliency. Each morning we include the best tribal practices of offering prayer, passing the talking stick in a talking circle, and learning about the Appaloosas. We honor the spirit of the horse and its ability to lead us on the right path.


The kids are learning to care for the horses with grooming, understanding horse communication, and making time for solo and group Join-up. We practice the basics of putting the rope halter and lead rope on, leading, backing up, and walking the horse around obstacles. This strengthens the horse’s bond with the kids to enhance trust while riding. To make it easier on the horse and to practice the old ways, we do bit-less riding. This also encourages the rider’s ability to use effective hand rein and leg cues to communicate with the horse.


We all want to say a big thank you to CJ, an 8 years old gelding with Leopard markings. He has been our star this year, standing close by when we are in our talking circles, practicing group join-up, and being calm and fun for riding. Thanks again to Chief Joseph Foundation for letting us be out with the horses this year.

LEAP Nez Perce Tribal Newspaper Article Spring 2014

For the Love of Horses


As the rhythms of nature change their beat, we are anticipating the return of our time out with the horses. This year we are offering more opportunities for you and your kids to strengthen your connection to the land and your cultural heritage with the Appaloosa horses. LEAP (Lapwai Equine Assisted Program) focuses on developing a healing relationship with the horses by seeing them as our teachers. Through observing the nonverbal communication of the horses and their natural leadership style, we can learn to build a mutually respectful relationships that helps us to gain confidence in ourselves and feel safe around horses. We learn to understand our own connection to the natural world within us and understand what our feelings, thoughts, and body sensations are communicating to us. We learn to listen to the natural world around us, what the wind and the birds and the sun and the water are teaching us today. Horses can help us renew our curiosity for life. They support us in being process oriented focusing on each step we take along our path. Developing a keen awareness and connection to the present moment helps us to make healthy choices in our own lives. When we look at horses in the open field, we see them grazing most of the time. This is one of the ways they teach us about the simple joy of living in the present moment.


Beginning May 7 we will be working with the Chief Joseph Foundation Appaloosa Horses, offering afterschool groups for kids K-5 on Wednesdays from 3:30-5:30 and for teens on Fridays from 1:30-3:30 beginning May 8. For adults we are offering a Healing with Horses Circle on Wednesdays from 1:00-3:00 beginning May 7. To accommodate working families, we are offering family sessions on some Saturday afternoons by appointment. We invite you to call 208-843-7244 for Donna Henry at Behavioral Health to register for LEAP group sessions or individual and family sessions.


This year we are also expanding our work by being out with the Nez Perce Tribal Horses for Saturday morning sessions in the Sweetwater Pasture beginning April 26 throughout the spring and summer. We have a progressive series of 8 sessions planned. This Tribal Youth Program is for kids ages 12-17. You can register for this Tribal Youth Program by calling Agnes Weaskus at Students for Success at 208-621-4611.


All of our programs are free of charge to participants and open to the community. Since many of you may not have the time or land to take care of your own horses, our programs give you the opportunity to be with horses and connect to your ancestral roots.

Written by Linda Kingsbury, LEAP Coordinator and Equine Facilitated Learning Instructor.

LEAP Nez Perce Tribal NewsPaper Article October 2013


The first year of bringing an Equine Facilitated Learning style of being with horses to the Nez Perce community has been a great success. Many lives have been touched by the heart of the horses through LEAP (Lapwai Equine Assisted Program). So far we have brought over 68 different people from ages 6 years old to community Seniors out for sessions with the horses. We have also given presentations to the High School Equine Science class and the Boys and Girls Club. We have had displays and pictures of the horse program activities at the Women’s Health Fair, Powwows, Lapwai Days, LCSC Educational Summit, and YCEA achievement night, exposing more people to the program. We plan to have a display at the upcoming Veterans Stand Down at the Casino October 10.


Last month in the newspaper, you learned about the benefits of the Equine Facilitated Learning way of being with horses. Now, I wanted to take some time here to offer proper thanks and gratitude for all who have made the behavioral health horse program possible this year. I want to start with a big heartfelt thank you to Donna Henry for working as a team with me since the beginning of this program idea. She suggested that we work with Chief Jospeh Foundation horses since she was familiar with them over her sixteen years of going on the Chief Joseph National Trial Ride. The program would not have happened without her gracious collaboration.


We say Qeci ‘yew ‘yew to our Appaloosa horse teachers; Rusty, Oscar, Nike, Bodie, Tiger, Dream Girl, Nicky, Skipper, Red Rocket, Reno, and Sally for teaching us and showing us the way. We also want to extend a thank you to all the people who supported us in making the program a success this year. Bonnie Ewing and family for their cooperation and care with the horses and facility, Russ Spencer for sharing his familiarity with the land and previous CJF programs which helped with initial logistics, JR Spencer for mowing the field, and CJF board members for helping with a cleanup and setting up the round pen and water trough. Also thanks to Kim Cannon from Land Services, Kristy Kuehfuss and all the Behavioral Health staff for their moral support. It was a pleasure being with all the students, parents, and relatives who participated in LEAP sessions. Thank you everyone for being open to becoming horse-like and embracing this way of being with horses that heals the hearts of both humans and horses. We also send a big thank the to Nimiipuu Health for dedicating funds from the Meth and Suicide Prevention Grant to LEAP and to the Nez Perce Tribe for sharing grant funding from the Tribal Educational Fund towards the Behavioral Health Equine Facilitated Learning programs.


We wrap up our sessions out on the land with the horses October 18 this year and will resume in the spring of 2014. This fall and winter we are offering visual and experiential presentations of LEAP Behavioral Health horse program for your class, community meeting, or event. In the Eponaquest model of team building, there are Leadership Training opportunities available inside without horses. These skills are easily transferable into your workplace and family life as well.

LEAP Nez Perce Tribal Newspaper Q&A 2013

Who are you and what is your job title? My name is Linda Kingsbury and horses are my medicine. I am an Equine Facilitated Learning Instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning for the Behavioral Health horse program called LEAP (Lapwai Equine Assisted Program.)

Linda Dee Cindy

As a child growing up in New England I learned to have a love for the natural world from my Grandmothers. Now I live in Moscow Idaho where I’ve had a Holistic Health consultation practice since 1994. My work teaching natural medicine, local edible and medicinal plant use, and earth wisdom connections is expanding to helping people heal through the way of the horse.

It was my own health crisis that brought me to working with horses. I was feeling stuck and needed a new approach to move forward, so I asked for asked for guidance. Horses began showing up in my dreamtime and I was curious about what I saw. I started reading and researching about horse therapies. For more than two years I studied in Arizona to complete my EFL (Equine Facilitated Learning) certifications with EponaQuest Worldwide and PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship). I call my EFL business Horse Heart Connection because of my heart-felt experiences with horses. I am sharing this “miracle” ability of horses as healers, because they can bring connection, peace, and the relief of receiving unconditional acceptance to all who encounter them. My sister’s horses have been a source of comfort and stability for my son Jake who is an Iraq war veteran.


How long has the program been in our community? My experience developing prevention programs in the personal growth and addictions field blended with my EFL training prepared me to bring this innovative way of being with horses to the community. Since March 2013 I have been developing and co-facilitating this personal development horse program in coordination with Donna Henry and Behavioral Health staff. Our horse teachers are eleven Appaloosas owned by the Chief Joseph Foundation.


What did you offer this year? The NMPH Behavioral Health horse program focuses on personal growth, emotional skills, and social development through interactions with horses. We treat the horses as partners in learning by expanding horse-human communication gently and safely. The program is open to the whole community and transportation is provided out to the horses when needed. Participants learn through listening, observation, hands on grooming with the horses, longeing, natural horsemanship skills as well as, guided riding activities. There is a focus on self-regulation of emotional responses with increased mind-body-emotional-spiritual awareness in the present moment.


How many students, adults were involved? So far we have had over 60 different students and adults involved in individual, group, or family sessions out with the horses. We also have given presentations to the High School Equine Science class, Boys and Girls Club, and the Senior Citizens. We have had displays and pictures of the program activities at the Women’s Health Fair, Powwows, Lapwai Days, LCSC Educational Summit, and YCEA achievement night, exposing many people to the program.

What did the students/adults learn from the program? Participants learn from the wisdom of the earth and the horses. They open their senses to nature, for example noticing how they feel and hear the wind in that moment, even noticing which direction it is coming from. Developing natural sensitivities through nature connection and the bodies multiple ways of learning is important in this technological age where many people spend most of their time inside around computers or televisions.

People who attend LEAP learn to work well as a team. They learn to listen and build trust in themselves and each other. They learn to ask for help in a safe and supportive environment. They learn to relax and enjoy time with the horses in their twelve acre home. They learn to express gratitude.

Ten youth and two adults from the Youth Cultural Enrichment Academy came out to the Behavioral Health horse program in July. They learned about the emotional and health benefits of being with horses in this type of Equine Assisted Activities. They had great fun expressing their creativity by decorating the horses with water-based paint during their last summer session.

There is scientific evidence now about the healing effects of being around horses. These include lowering blood pressure, reducing stress cortisol hormones, and boosting Oxytocin, the bond and befriend hormone. Oxytocin increases feelings of curiosity, optimism, and creativity and can improve motivation to learn. So you can see this program is a great benefit to the health of the community on many levels.

What’s coming up next? We’ll continue with afterschool groups for kids from 3:30-5:30 on Wednesdays for teen guys, Thursday for teen girls, and Fridays for kids K-5. Each group is open to 8 students for optimal learning.  In September we also start a 6 week program for Veterans on Wednesdays from 1:00-3:00. We will continue with individual and family sessions by appointment. LEAP will offer sessions through October 2013, then resume in the springtime in April, 2014 when the weather is ready. We are also collecting stories from the Senior Citizens and other community members who have a story to share about how horses have been a positive influence in their lives.

We want to express our gratitude to Chief Joseph Foundation for allowing us to work with their Appaloosas and conduct the program on their land. We want to thank the Nimiipuu Health and the Nez Perce Tribe for funding LEAP Lapwai Equine Assisted Program. We also want to extend a thank you to all the people who supported us in making the program a success this year.

Lapwai Equine Assisted Program Tribal Paper Article June 201

Join us to learn with the Horses

Lapwai Equine Assisted Program for Life Enrichment

Perhaps you’ve seen the LEAP flyers posted around town, in the newspaper, or you visited our booth at the Women’s Wellness Fair at the Clearwater Casino in May. If you are curious to learn more about this horse program or how you and your family can participate in the Lapwai Equine Assisted Program, read on.


Nimiipuu Health Behavioral Health started LEAP as a way to expand life enrichment services for the community. Our afterschool program began in May with an adolescent girls group. As well as lots of smiles, the comments we have received from participants include, “We love it”, and “Its great to be with the horses again.” Our Equine Assisted groups for Parent/Guardian and younger kids, and a group for young men are planned to start in June.


We practice a variety of activities, starting out with simple observation, understanding non verbal communication, establishing safe and healthy boundaries, then expanding to hands on work with the horses, and supported riding activities. There is an emphasis on enjoying being outside learning from nature, the horses and each other. Expressive arts and creativity are part of this learning model for positive social change.


The program is offered free of charge and transportation will be provided from Nimiipuu Behavioral Health office to the horse location. Our outdoor classroom is in Spalding with the Chief Joseph Foundation Appaloosa horses. LEAP is a compliment to the other great cultural, horsemanship, and riding programs available in the community. Our session’s focus on horse guided human transformation. Opportunities to succeed are created within a positive present moment focused experiential learning model. Our team consists of Counselors, an Equine Facilitated Learning Instructor, the kids, and of course the horses. We create a supportive environment where a therapeutic alliance develops between the all of the participants. Horses are treated as equal partners in the process.


Scientific evidence now confirms the healing effects of being with horses. As well as lowering blood pressure, and reducing stress cortisol hormones, horses help us form strong relationships built on mutual respect and understanding. Being around horses increases feelings of curiosity, optimism, and creativity. They can also help us to be motivated and improve our ability to learn. Healthy communication, emotional expression, and relationship skills are developed through horse heart connections. All of what is learned with the horses is transferrable to the rest of our lives at home, school, and in the community. Close interaction with horses promotes mental, emotional, and relational balance. Participants have the opportunity to develop inner strength, leadership, cooperation, and community-mindedness. Join in the fun.

This article was written by LEAP co-facilitator by Linda Kingsbury, PhD, who is an accredited EponaQuest™ Equine Facilitated Learning Instructor and Equine Specialist for Mental Health and Learning. She is a member of PATH Professional Associated for Therapeutic Horsemanship, Appaloosa Horse Club, and CADCA Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America. 

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