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The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1)

2022-06-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 30.E, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (25)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com

Individual Publication Date: June 15, 2022

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,550

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Kathy Asseiro’s biography on Symatree Farm’s website states: “Kathy is an Advanced Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) facilitator and the Program Director for Symatree Farm. A lifelong respect for horses, combined with a strong belief in the value of experiential learning and an intense desire to help others, naturally led her to EAL. From operating heavy equipment, to earning a couple of university degrees, partnering in a three-generation family business, and achieving certification as an elementary Montessori teacher, she now draws upon her training, skills and experiences to head up the programs at Symatree Farm. Whether she’s facilitating a session, tending the herd, working on curriculum design, greasing farm machinery, or swinging a hammer, it all comes together in fulfilling her dream… bringing horses and people together.” She discusses: horses; Symatree; youth, teens, and adults; Advanced Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) facilitator; issues come with horses; people; coordination with Dr. Kelly Penner Hutton; main things horses tell; partnership between Piece of Mind and Symatree; the majority of clientele; the bigs, the mids, and the littles; and Sarah Guillemard – Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness and Uzoma Asagwara.

Keywords: Advanced Equine Assisted Learning, Kathy Asseiro, Program Director, Sarah Guillemard, Symatree Farm, Uzoma Asagwara.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, today, we are here with Kathy of Symatree Farm. We will be talking about your background and then have a little bit of an introduction of the work of intrigue. Yourself, how did you get involved in horses, in ponies, in equestrianism in general?

Kathy Asseiro[1],[2]: So, this is going to be one of those stories to when I was 4-years-old! [Laughing]

Jacobsen: Every story! [Laughing]

Asseiro: It wasn’t there, except for a few generations back on a home. I was 4-years-old being asked by my dad. He’d go on a business trip. I’d ask for a pony. I wouldn’t get it. Fast forward 40 or so years, I have 1, 2, 3, and then 22. [Laughing] Also, the other side of it, I remember being 6-years-old and being really, really driven to do what I could to have people be joyful. I wanted people to be joyful and happy. Life choices and circumstances took me to the point where the horses and bringing the joy converged. I was able to get the property. Things fell in to place. With a little bit of work, this is what we now have today.

Jacobsen: Why decide to create Symatree in the first place? Because it’s one of those industries that is plural. So, you can do a lot of things with it. A lot of people in popular culture will know dressage. They’ll call it, ‘Horses dancing.’ There’s show jumping. They’ll know it as horses jumping over rails. Yet, why focus on gathering the types of horses and ponies that you do? Why focus on mental health and things on that nature?

Asseiro: I’ve got to say, “It is where my heart has always been.” So many people who I run into over the years, they have needed something. There wasn’t something always there for them. The rescues that we have brought in. They have so much heart and so much personality. They are deserving of a second, third, or fourth chance. Same with the people. I was wired to do whatever I can to help people find the place of joy in themselves. Then they can go on and be the best version of themselves.

Jacobsen: A lot of Canadian society, or, maybe, more, at least, has been focusing on the phrase “mental health” and its varying concepts and implications, particularly around young or the veterans or LGBTI communities. Who are individuals – youth, teens, and adults – coming to you, to work with your team?

Asseiro: It’s right across the board. Our team, we have a lead facilitator who is in charge of the youth programming. We have a lead facilitator in charge of team programming. I am in charge of the adult programming, which is something beginning to be developed in a unique way. We have taken the COVID years to transition a bit. We were working with a local school division. They would send 100 or so children a year. We’ve been an approved provider for Child & Family Services.

So, the children that we see are on the spectrum, have ADHD, etc. They have all these letters. We don’t focus on the letters. We focus on who the child is. Our youth facilitator is phenomenal. There is a lot of angst in kids nowadays. She loves to work with those because she sees beyond the angst. She sees what is behind it, which is fear or sadness. It is this remarkable human being doing the best that they can do with the horses to bring that out.

A lot of those behaviours that they were exhibiting before simply fall away. For teens, it is about identity. Who they are? Who they want to be? We will do overnight workshops with them as well. It is a ot of fun. We design to be fun. Nobody wants to do heavy work, especially teens. There is enough of that already. With the adults, I call them the phoenix.; The person who has been knocked down. The flame has not been extinguished. They still have a dream.

They are still seeking. They don’t know which way to look. Those are the adults that I like to work with. If the person is looking to better themselves in some way, we are open to working with them.

Jacobsen: You Advanced Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) facilitator. What is an EAL facilitator?

Asseiro: So, my training was done at Cartier Equine in Saskatchewan. They were one of the first, maybe the first, approved by Equine Canada to do this type of training. It was about 12or 13 years ago now, when I got the training. So, we would be equine experts. We understand horses really, really well. We create programming either one-on-one, to address specific needs, or groups, to gather and think. This age group, these are the typical challenges faced by them.” It will be a program based in a story that is imaginative and playful.

They are characters within th story. As they interact with the horses, they build their emotional vocabulary, learn to collaborate, how to problem solve, how to use common sense, how to make decisions. All these things that they struggle with in real life. As a facilitator, we are taught how to take that programming. For the delivery of the programming, it is not like teaching, where we are the ones with the answers. Facilitating is different, it is creating the environment with having the experience and the child, teen, or adult engaging in the experience, and finding their own answers.

Our horses are so used to all kinds of different energies and behaviours. So, if a person behaves in a particular way, and if the horse is uncomfortable with it, the horse will leave., They are allowed to do that. The person will look to us. We tend to look away at that point. You will find your own best answer. We trust everybody here that they will find that. They go back and try again. Then they find the success is theirs. Facilitators set the experience and letting it play out, but making it safe. We have never had an issue with that. The prime role of the facilitator is to let the person have their experience, learn what they need to from that.

After that experience, we give a place for them to be aware of what just happened. They may think, “I took a horse over a barrel or under a curtain.” We help them see their gifts in having that happen and how they can carry that into the world outside of the arena.

Jacobsen: What issues come with horses who may have been malnourished, may have forms of physical or mental trauma? How do you work with horses that may have those kind of issues in a herd.

Asseiro: So, the herd is the magical part of it. We keep between 3 and 4 herds. Horses have hierarchies, naturally, out in the wild. They have hierarchies here. We don’t want to put them all together in one. We have natural herd bosses and natural herd mares. We make sure the composition of our herds is healthy. If a horse is creating trouble in a herd or having a hard time settling in, we will pull them from that herd and into another herd, shifting them until they are as comfortable as they can be.

When we first bring a horse in, there is a good chance it will have some challenges and difficulties. We brought in a 4-year-old, our youngest. His hooves hadn’t been trimmed in 4 years, probably. Maybe, he’d seen a farrier once. The front feet weren’t too bad. The back feet were terrible, really, really long. We have an outstanding farrier. She put the nippers to it, super carefully. She showed the worst. The bad feet had abscessed. We kept him in the stall for 7 months. Every second day, his feet would be soaked in Epsom salts. We would pack them with powder. We would have the farrier out every 2 weeks to trim them and working away at it. After 7 months, we got permission to put him into the herd. That’s what we did. \When you put a new horse into the herd, they will get chased a bit.

We put him into the herd, made sure that he had a separate pile of hay. We knew the herd would push him away. We made sure that he knew the hierarchy and knew his place. We will keep them separated for as long as we need to get them well. The best we can do to get them well mental and emotional wellbeing is to get them into a balanced herd. We wouldn’t take in 5 at a time and stick them in one herd. It is overwhelming for the herd. We take, maybe 2, at a time, and get them to that point. With this little guy, we put him into the herd. His presence in that herd created some angst within the herd. Some of the other horses, like Sawyer, were really unhappy. A couple of the mares were joining up with the little guy. The three of them were being belligerent.

I pulled this tiny out. I put him in with the bigs because the big herd is so well balanced. So, he spent probably a month and a half or two with the big herd. They really helped him because horses understand horses. We can understand them to a degree, but our communication is not as subtle or immediate. So, the big guys helped him to learn how to be a good friend. Now, he is back out. We are doing special treatment for his feet. He will go out into a new herd and will settle in really well. The first thing for the mental and emotional health is to get them into a healthy herd and let the horses help them with that.

Depending on how much their trust or respect has been shattered when they came, it will determine how long they stay in the herd without human interaction. We are in the herd interacting with them every day. So, the new horse will see us interacting with all of the others. They start to see how the others are trusting us, and helps the new horse understand that this person is different other people who I have been with before. Some times, in some cases, it cane take years before a horse is healed enough to let even us comfortably approach.

Spartacus is one of those. One of the most damaged we’ve ever received. His trust was absolutely shattered. Now, he is absolutely golden. He is such a good mentor for people. If you ave a child with ADHD with the big energy, then he will leave. A child almost has the horse as a barometer. We don’t have to do anything. They do it themselves. The child learns they can rate their energy up or down because they so badly want to get to that horse. So, it is pure magic.

Jacobsen: How attuned are horses, ponies, and so on, to people?

Asseiro: My goodness, it would be hard to describe it in words, I guess. I’ve got a number of clients who I am working with now. The client will be interacting with the horse, even walking. The horse is on loose lead line walking beside the person. All of the sudden, the horse will drop back and start creating a bit of tension in the lead line or the horse will push/move into the person I’ve got one horse that will speed up a little bit, turn 90 degrees, and stop in front of the person, creating a road black. This is with more adult people. I will ask the clients, “What happened in you right there?”

They will say, “I was questioning myself. Thinking you don’t think I’m good enough.” Their old stories come up. Every time their stories come up. The horse would walk in front of them and cut them off. I am 200 feet away. I have no idea what is going on, except I see the horse change. They walk mores stiffly. Something changes in them. I mention this to the person. They start to watch the horse. Now, they are walking along, a horse cuts them off or walks back. The horse reminds them. “You can do what you want to do, but I am aware. I noticed a shift in you and am aware.” It is remarkable.

Jacobsen: How is the coordination with Dr. Kelly Penner Hutton of Peace of Mind?

Asseiro: I have been working with her for about 6 years now. She comes out 1 day a week bringing her clients, who are children, teens, adults, as well. We have done a couple of group sessions together for nurses and that sort of thing. When she is in the arena, she is the mental health expert. I am the equine expert. We will be collaborating completely and allowing the person to interact. She will move in to processing something if it is a complex trauma. Or she will do her EMDR. She is phenomenal at it. She will help them with the coping skills on the psychological end of things. I will be on the equine end of things setting up the activities and the experiences.

Also, I will identify when the horse is telling us something.

Jacobsen: What are the main things horses tell you?

Asseiro: One of the biggest things is if a person is not being congruent. If their inside and outside aren’t matching, then the horse will be really uncomfortable with that. If they are out of their body, too much out of their head, starting to replay old scripts and stories, then the horse allows us to know it. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Heart Math Institute.

Jacobsen: No, I have not.

Asseiro: They have done a lot of research on the electromagnetic field of the heart and of horses. They talk about the field put out by the heart of the horse, where the field of the heart is much stronger than the brain. They have small brains and big hearts compared to us, who have big brains and small hearts compared to the size of out bodies. Our electromagnetic field will extend about a foot and a half or two feet, so they figure, from our body. I don’t recall. It may 10 to 30 to 40 feet for a horse’s EMF being detected. So, when a person is standing in a herd of horses, if they come in agitated, then the horses are generally okay with that.

What will happen, the person’s rhythm will just start to fall into a relaxed rhythm being around the horses because the horse’s modulates the human’s. Even if they aren’t doing that much around the horses, they will begin to experience that relaxation. What they tell us, if they lay down and roll, they will only do that if they are comfortable. Although, a client may feel angsty. The horse isn’t worried about that energy. We will always know from the horse’s behaviour if the horse is feeling comfortable or uncomfortable. I was working with the 13-year-old a few years back who was having issues with emotional regulation.

She wanted to get up to Spartacus. She walked up to him. He leaves. She looks back at me. She had some struggles. Every time, she had a “no” from a teacher. She would have a temper tantrum and would walk off. Because he was giving her a “no.” I asked, “Are you feeling comfortable or uncomfortable inside?” She said, “Uncomfortable.” I said, “Breathe in, until at a comfortable spot, see if you can relax it a bit.” She did. I said, “Go ahead, try again.” I have no idea what Spartacus is going to do, if he is going to stay or leave. She felt more comfortable. He allowed he to come up because, for him, you have to work a bit to get to him. So, he was letting her and me know. Something is about her that is not as uncomfortable as before. As soon as she sorted it out, he allowed her to approach.

Jacobsen: How did you form this partnership between Piece of Mind and Symatree?

Asseiro: It was interesting. A woman just joined our team two weeks before. She is such a go-getter, Barb. She is on our website. She asked me, “Would you mind if I started calling?” At that point, we were working child divisions and individuals. She asked me if I minded if she just did cold calling. I said, “Yes, go ahead.” [Laughing] I didn’t think much would come of it. Dr. Kelly was one of the calls. Dr. Kelly was one of the only ones interesting. She came. It has been a great 6-year growing relationship. Being at the right place at the right time.

Jacobsen: Would you say the majority of clientele are youth, teen, or adults?

Asseiro: The majority are children, still. We are looking to build the teen and adult more. We, naturally, fell into the youth because we were working with the schools and Child & Family Services. Children and through CFS some teens. That had been the focus for the first 9 years. It was natural for a lot of these children to be coming. When 2020 hit, and things slowed down a bit, it gave reason to pause. “Where do we want to go with this rather than simply taking any calls? Where is the passion focused?” Through that time, our team was growing. After we picked up a person who loves working with teens and youth, it freed me up.

I have been developing an adult program, always based on imagination and play and finding that in wisdom. Because a lot of the kids coming to us. They have said, “I don’t want to be involved in talk therapy. I don’t want to talk to anybody.” Why don’t they want to focus on problems that aren’t theirs anyway?” So, at this point, youth is still the dominant one. Adults would be second. Teens would be third.

Jacobsen: Which of the bigs, the mids, and the littles, are more popular?

Asseiro: I really couldn’t say because it depend son the person who comes. If they feel a fit… there is always one horse. Her name is Kitani. She is a good little pony. We always joke. She would not be the first one I would go to, but a lot of kids really, really love her. I can think about every single one of our horses having a fan in somebody or in a group of somebodies. Again, people who are more extroverted are going to like the more rambunctious horses. The introverts will like the quiet horses. Those task-oriented will take the serious horses, just wants to get the job done. For those playful people, the horse that will let them put on clothes and paint them. They will be happy with that.

It is more about the person than the horse in that case. People tend to like the bigs once used tom the smalls because it feels like more of a challenge for them. Yet, it is great to have the smalls, when working with as many children as we do. Proportionately, a pony is a good size for an 8-year-old compared to a quarter horse or something.

Jacobsen: How did the Sarah Guillemard – Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness and Uzoma Asagwara find Spartucus, Sawyer, and Kiwi?

Asseiro: [Laughing] Everything is pre- and post-COVID. I am thinking 3 or 4 years ago. Her people reached out to us as part of equine facilities because she had put forth the bill for service and animal day. So, we were invited down to the legislative buildings three years ago to participate in this day. Of course, we went down. They contacted us again this past year to see if we could bring some horses down. We said, “Absolutely, we love bringing our horses to people.” We chose Spartacus because he had never been to the city because. We knew he was ready. Kiwi and Sawyer were the others that we took. They were on a television show too. They are pretty resilient, very smart and very experienced.

So, the three of them came together. Then Uzoma came up towards the end, said they never really touched a horse before. I said, “Here’s your opportunity!” They came up and gave Spartacus a pat. It was getting towards the end of the time when trying to get everyone inside to see the police service dog there as well. So, I just said to them, “Are you ready for a challenge?” I love bringing people to those growth edges. I said, “Here is Spartacus, take him on the lead line.” The smile was remarkable and off they went. I stayed close by in case anything. But there was nothing to worry about at all.

Spartacus was content and Uzoma was a natural – really good calm energy, helped him feel amazing.

Footnotes

[1] Advanced Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) Facilitator and Program Director, Symatree Farm.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 15, 2022: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022: https://in-sightpublishing.com/insight-issues/.

Citations

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1)[Online]. June 2022; 30(E). Available from: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2022, June 15). The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E, June. 2022. <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E. http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E (June 2022). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.E. Available from: <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.E., http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 30.E (2022): June. 2022. Web. <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 10: Kathy Asseiro on Symatree Farm (1)[Internet]. (2022, June 30(E). Available from: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/kathy-1.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012–Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and can disseminate for their independent purposes.

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