Throughout the pandemic, many people, especially teenagers have experienced rising rates in depression. Stephanie Hansen, who works as an emergency room nurse, has witnessed the effects firsthand.
“The difference between the number of mental illness patients pre-Covid and today has rapidly increased,” she says. “We see people in the emergency room, but there are such limitations in our treatment options. We are not a long-term solution. They are just there as a temporary measure. We make sure they are safe and then we find places to get them therapy in an overcrowded system. We haven’t been able to keep up with the mental health demands, because we haven’t grown with the problem in our community.”
When asked what should be done about this influx, especially among teenagers, she has a ready answer. “Get kids out of the confines of their homes and out into nature. One option that has proven benefits is equine therapy, working with horses.”
The Healing Power of Horses
If that answer sounds oddly specific, it is worth mentioning that Stephanie’s husband, Travis, owns Travis Training Center, a facility in Payson, Utah, that trains, shows, and markets Arabian horses nationally and internationally.
“Studies show that being with a horse or having responsibility for an animal really helps mental health,” Stephanie says.
Travis has been a horse trainer for 35 years, but his connection with horses started long before he started a business. He grew up around horses following in the footsteps of his father, Wendell Hansen, a world-renowned horse breeder. Shortly after attending college, he started up his own Arabian training center in American Fork, Utah. When Travis’s father passed away, he relocated his training center to Payson, where they would have room to expand. There, they keep over 70 horses, a few of their own but most of the horses belong to clients. As they opened up, they had an “open barn” to invite the public in, and more than 200 people attended.
Depression is a topic that has hit close to home since some of their family members and close friends have also struggled at times with mental health. This year, they are joining up with other like-minded organizations to fight the tide of depression.
Bridle Up Hope
One such partner organization is Bridle Up Hope. Years ago, the Covey family approached Travis about creating a therapeutic organization dealing with horses, and he became involved. He now sits on the board of the nonprofit.
When asked to describe the organization, representative Sarah Brown said, “Humans have long recognized the power of a horse’s unique intuition, traits, and sensitivity! These qualities provide extraordinary emotional support for people with anxiety disorders and mental health struggles. Bridle Up Hope has harnessed the powers of these animals to support our program participant’s needs.”
Their equine program is specifically designed for girls and is meant to teach them hope, confidence, and resilience through a regime of equestrian training coupled with the principles from Stephen R. Covey’s famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. They have been in business since 2012, and in that time, they have changed the lives of over a thousand girls and women who have struggled with depression, anxiety, abuse, or other kinds of trauma. It operates out of their headquarters in Alpine, Utah, as a nonprofit organization founded by the Sean and Rebecca Covey family in memory of their daughter, Rachel, who passed away in 2012. Rachel battled depression for many years and had a special love for all things related to horses, and for helping others find fulfillment through horse training.
Their programs focus on three pillars: first, providing private riding lessons, second, teaching life skills, and third, cultivating a community by having participants serve in the barn.
They hope to expand their program to have chapters in all 50 states and in other countries. The idea is to make the pink horseshoe, which they use as a symbol, an international symbol of hope for women. They have already opened a few locations in other countries, such as the Netherlands and Guadeloupe, and they have several other locations opening soon in both the United States and abroad.
(Watch the video below to learn more about the mission of Bridle Up Hope.)
There are a variety of ways to get involved in their organization or to support them financially. They have an online store that sells various clothes and jewelry items, and 100 percent of the proceeds from these sales go toward their programs. They are working with established barns and horse trainers to create locations all over the world, and so if you already have horses available, you can apply to become part of their program. Those who are interested in pursuing one of their programs can visit them online at bridleuphope.org.
Another partner organization is Life Fusion, a company based in American Fork, Utah, that specializes in IV infusions to help those with a wide variety of ailments. Their infusions are used to help those with various diseases or deficiencies. IV vitamin therapy is used to improve overall health, increase mental clarity, improve the immune system, and maximize wellness of body and mind. Ketamine infusions are now being used to help those who struggle with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even chronic pain. Patients work with a physician and their team so that their patients feel better inside and out.
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Infusion therapy works on the principle that infusing certain substances into the blood at the right concentration can help improve connections between the brain, body, and nerves, facilitating optimal performance and a feeling of well-being. IV therapy is the most efficient way to get vitamins, minerals, and nutrients into the bloodstream. IV infusions, as opposed to the oral route or injections, is absorbed more quickly. These treatments are meant to be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise to keep your body performing its best.
According to Life Fusion, ketamine has been used successfully as an adjunct to traditional treatments for improved mental health. Ketamine is a strong pain reliever that inhibits pain signals and can act as a powerful relaxant to treat anxiety and depression. The results occur within hours, instead of within the weeks it takes traditional anxiety medication.
Those being treated sit in a comfortable recliner while a small IV is placed in the arm. The ketamine or other treatment is infused into the blood stream for about 45 minutes. The patience is then observed for 15-30 minutes and is free to go home. The initial treatment protocol for ketamine includes 6 infusions over a few weeks followed by single infusions as needed.
Other IV infusions are offered that are made up of a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Many of these infusions are meant to help boost the immune system or to help recover after an illness occurs. Other therapies include infusions for hydration, beauty, athletic recovery, and energy improvement.
They also offer another treatment for depression known as transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS. Unlike many medical procedures, this is a non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate the nerve cells in the brain. During the treatment, a magnetic coil is placed against the patient’s scalp and electromagnetic pulses are used to stimulate the parts of the brain that deal with mood control and depression. The process is painless and can often provide results when other forms of depression treatment have not yet proven effective. Those wishing to learn more can visit lifefusioncenters.com.
On June 4 at 11 a.m., the Travis Training Center will be holding a community open house, teaming up with Bridle Up Hope and Life Fusion, to show the public what they can offer to help combat depression, including the benefits of equine therapy. They will offer door prizes, food, and a presentation about their Arabian horses. (See the invitation below for details.)
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