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Equine therapy group creating mobile unit

Submitted Photo Members of the NEIGH organization. Left to right: Kimberly J. Warner, LMSW, CASAC-T; Nancy Johnson, event coordinator; Sue Dykstra, quality control; Tyler Dykstra, licensed NYS Teach/Facilitator; Dawn Samuelson, executive director/founder/EAB, EAL; Bonna Westerlund, volunteer; Dena Hirliman, facilitator/event coordinator. Board members absent from photo: Greg G. Holt, NEIGH Board of Directors president, retired NYS Trooper; Greg K. Gibbs, Ph.D., Dept. Chair St. Bonaventure University, national commander for the Sons of the American Legion, member of the Board of Directors for SUNY Fredonia; Kirk G. Allen, Jr., vice commander, Chautauqua County Council VFM; Meaghan Dykstra, treasurer.

GERRY – Local organization N.E.I.G.H. (National Equine Institute of Growth through Healing, Inc.), part of The Constance Project provides equine assisted therapy and learning, to help clients improve their emotional, mental and social well-being.

Dawn Samuelson, the founder of N.E.I.G.H., explained how trained equine therapists “can see that (behavior) and use that information to give them (the class member) tools and strategies to have their own boundaries and personal space. We teach them confidence and assertiveness that they can use in their everyday life. The horses help to show how we’re viewed and we can change our behavior to better communicate with others.”

The goal is to aid in the prevention of suicide, an epidemic taking the lives of veterans and civilians across the country. The hands-on approach of The Constance Project and Beyond the Reins, creates a safe environment for self-discovery and empowerment, so clients can find peace-of-mind.

Samuelson maintains a healthy mental state for the horses, sharing “I think it’s very important we maintain their mental stability as well. Our facilitators need to be trained to be aware of that and things may need to be adjusted accordingly. The horses love the attention too; it’s almost like they know when somebody needs a hug.”

N.E.I.G.H. recently received a donation from Happy Hounds Hotel, in hopes of saving more lives through behavior modification and positive reinforcement; N.E.I.G.H.’s specialty. The donation will be used to create a new mobile therapy unit.

Samuelson said, “If people can’t come to us, we’ll come to them. We set up at VA hospitals, schools, military bases, and fire departments as well, wherever the need is.” A mobile therapy unit creates incredible opportunities to reach new people. Samuelson plans to continue to grow N.E.I.G.H. in hopes of helping more people in the community and across the country.

She said, “If we can do anything to help people make a living by doing what we are doing, then I feel like I can leave this legacy to my children. We are in the process of franchising our model; when somebody donates, that helps us to cover our horse expenses, our travel, and helps us continue to do that at no charge to veterans and our first responders. We are honored to serve those who served us.”

Donations can be sent by mail to PO Box 104, Gerry, NY 14740 or visit them online at www.theneigh.org. Please make checks payable to NEIGH.

If you or someone you know could benefit from N.E.I.G.H.’s programs, please do not hesitate to contact them at 985-1066 or by email at info@theneigh.org. A friendly staff member is prepared to work with you to achieve a healthy state-of-mind. N.E.I.G.H. is currently running sessions at Homestead Stables in Gerry.

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