Behavioral Science News

Sterling strives to develop leaders

Horse-mediated therapy

Sterling Grad Describes Horse-mediated Therapy

Sterling College alumnus, Mr. Scott Stinemetz (2003) returned to campus on March 6 to speak to students about his work with equine therapy. After graduating, Scott worked for a summer in Hutchinson with Boys and Girls Club programs. He was then hired as a case worker at a regional counseling center in Great Bend. Scott worked with troubled children for over 4 years. He was frustrated, at times, by the lack of involvement from parents.

Scott provided parallel stories of hope for his personal life and for troubled young people. His own hope came from recognizing that, although he was not at the top of his class in academics, his work could provide a means of spreading love and healing to hurting people. In turn, his equine therapy center provides healing and hope for many troubled youth in his community.Scott developed his servant leadership venture, Healing Hearts Ranch, after resigning from the counseling center. He knows horses well, and uses the natural connections that develop between children and horses to help the children open up to healing moments. Scott selects trustworthy and gentle horses to connect with clients. The therapeutic moments emerge naturally as he and other counselors give children tasks to complete with the horses.

Scott demonstrated one task to students at his presentation. Three volunteers linked arms and accepted different roles for the task. Jessica Schooley, in the middle, was the brain. She could only give instructions to her "hands," Denise Inman and Addie Swihart, to mount the saddle on the "horse." The process involved intense cooperation, and clear communication from the "brain."

Scott enjoys providing these services for young people in need, and uses the opportunities to reconnect families for functional living. Scott provides these services without charge, as he is supported by local churches and community agencies. Scott has developed his commitment to service, his care for young people, and his love of horses into a meaningful expression of his deep faith.

Our students, in turn, were inspired by Scott's down-to-earth approach to applying human service skills to meet community needs. Several students found renewed hope and commitment to psychology through Scott's model of productivity despite not being the top scholar.