Given Nina’s long history of partnership with equines, Nina has firsthand experience and knowledge of the therapeutic value of equines.  When Nina reached the age of 3, her father started her on her path by taking her nearly every weekend to the Tilden Park (above Berkeley, CA) Pony Rides.  In her early teen years Nina spent her summers at a Napa County resort, where her favorite daily activities including horseback riding.  Nina enjoyed a career spanning 18 years working with thoroughbred racehorses on major US racetracks and at the then world’s largest privately owned thoroughbred breeding ranch.  Nina worked her way up on the track, starting as a hot walker, then working as a groom, exercise rider and assistant trainer.  On the breeding farm Nina spent 3 years starting colts under saddle.  After retiring from race riding, Nina continued to own and ride horses. 

As a Marriage Family Therapist Trainee, Nina became the first intern at DreamPower Horsemanship of Gilroy CA, where she began providing equine facilitated psychotherapy, or EFP, under the knowledgeable supervision of DreamPower’s Founder and Director, Martha McNeil.  Martha encouraged Nina to join what was then known as NAHRA, the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.  In 2003 Nina went to work at a local nonprofit agency.  Nina successfully forged a relationship between the agency and DreamPower Horsemanship which continues to this day.

Nina enjoyed spending four years working with clients at DreamPower.  As part of this process, Nina became a member of NAHRA in 2003 and began making preparations to become a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, or TRI.  Her dream has long been to develop a private practice which includes equine facilitated psychotherapy. 

NAHRA become PATH International in 2010.  PATH International has the highest reputation in the industry of therapeutic riding for its standards of safety.  PATH also requires its members to uphold high standards of professionalism.  PATH Intl recently created a new skills set and Certification, that of Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning, or ESMHL.  PATH recognizes equines as sentient beings and the ESMHL advocates for the horse while the Therapeutic Riding Instructor focuses on the client/rider.  Nina embraces PATH’s standards of physical/emotional care of the equine during all EFP and EFL sessions. Nina is now a PATH Certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning as well as a PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. 

Nina has worked hard with one of her horses, a thoroughbred named Trabia, to make him into a well-trained therapy horse.  Trabia, named by the breeder after an Italian city, has as his grandsire the great racehorse Secretariat. 

Nina first experienced the therapeutic benefits of equine facilitated psychotherapy when she decided to put her then 3 year old son, Blue, on a quiet horse she had started under saddle.  Her son, now age 30, has cerebral palsy and did not walk without crutches until the age of 7.  Nina thought that by having Blue ride the horse while she led them around a 500 acre ranch, he would benefit from the movement of the horse.  “Horse” therapy benefited him greatly in that the riding helped Blue develop better muscle tone.  Unknown to Nina until she studied child development in grad school, her son also benefitted as he moved through space on the horse.  Nina learned that the brain requires stimulation such as moving through space in order to develop.  Blue’s brain developed rather well, and so did his self-esteem, in part due to riding.  He acquired a sense of accomplishment about himself with his riding skills.  He now holds a Master’s Degree in Classic Literature and works at a college prep school in Arizona.  He continues to ride and enjoys it.

Nina now provides equine facilitated psychotherapy at a small, local and private ranch.  She has found EFP to be effective in working with depression, anxiety, trauma, low self-esteem, psychosis, relationship issues and other psychological issues.  You may call Nina to ask her more about how EFP may work for you.  She provides a positive supportive environment to help address your issues.  She promotes independence, self-confidence and positive communication skills.  She finds benefits of “horse therapy” include increased interest in one’s surroundings and in one’s life, and greater self-confidence.  As clients acquire new skills and develop new feelings about themselves, they translate this into other areas of their lives.  For example, one client presented with low self-esteem and complained of having no friends.  She participated in a series of EFP sessions and felt so good about herself afterwards that not only did she make new friends at school, she also brought up her grades.


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