TAILS FROM THE TRAILS
Nora Janssen has found a way to marry two lifelong commitments: helping people and helping horses. She has been a registered nurse for many years, working in emergency rooms and specializing in psychiatric nursing.
“I use a lot of interaction and intervention when dealing with fearful or aggressive patients,” she said.
Janssen has been a rider all her life.
“I’ve always been infected with the horse virus,” she laughed. “I rode every chance I got as a kid growing up in New York City. Back then, you could rent a horse for $2.50 an hour. Eventually, I worked at barns, taking other riders out on trails, and all day every day during the summer. I got my own horse when I was 16.”
Janssen learned early about how being around horses can help reduce stress and lift one’s spirits. She said it’s a combination of being around calm, forgiving animals with the aerobic endorphins released when riding.
“Who needs drinks or drugs when you have horses?” she remarked. “Research has shown that pet-assisted therapy increases longevity, lowers blood pressure and generally brightens people’s days.”
In July 2011, Janssen incorporated her horse and people rescue passions, which has two dual purposes: as a therapeutic equine-assisted rehab facility offering adjunct treatment for people suffering depression, anxiety or PTSD, and as a horse rescue.
“Basically, we focus on the medical side of how to deal with various issues in a non-clinical environment,” she explained. “People with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, kidney failure, cancer, chronic pain and Alzheimer’s, often suffer secondary conditions like depression. Their caregivers may also be under a great deal of stress. These are the people we reach out to.”
Right now, the program is small.
“We’re just getting started,” Janssen said. “We have about a dozen clients. We get referrals through physicians, and because it’s a therapeutic program, as opposed to therapy, it’s not covered by insurance. But we offer our services on a sliding scale, based on ability to pay.”
Run out of Janssen’s home, Karen’s Equine Intervention is situated on 3 acres in Loxahatchee. In addition to three horses, an older Appendix, a quiet Thoroughbred and a mini, there’s a pig named Truffle, some dogs, a few goats and lots of chickens. And it’s named for Janssen’s daughter, who passed away unexpectedly in 2011.
Again, Janssen understands the healing power of being around horses, even though some pains will never vanish.
“One of my clients recently lost her daughter,” she said. “It’s beneficial for her to talk with someone like me who knows what it’s like. Although it never goes away, we talk about how you go on, how you handle it.”
Clients are welcome to follow whatever interests they have. “If they have their doctor’s release, they can ride, or they just spend time with the horses, grooming and bathing them,” Janssen said. “It varies from client to client. Some come once a week, some three times a week, both children and adults. Everyone has stress in their lives, sometimes more than usual, and it can lead to depression. This place offers them a way to work through some of the problems in a non-clinical environment and focus on things other than the ones bringing them down.”
And then there are the horses. Right now there are only three, all rescues, but Janssen hopes, with time and additional financing, to be able to expand that aspect as well. Eventually, she’d like to have an equine retirement facility, but that’s way in the future.
Janssen would also like a few more volunteers, ideally people who want to work with horses.
“This program is my baby,” she said. “The goal is to help people and help horses.”
For more information, or if you’d like to volunteer, call (561) 318-8043.