Our Services

We offer trauma-informed equine facilitated therapy, focusing on the horse-human connection as a pathway to building connected relationships.

Heal the Heart in Self

Through individual work with our horses address

  • Trauma
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Limiting belief systems
  • Addictions

Heal the Heart in Relationship

Through work with our horses address
  • Boundaries
  • Family dynamics
  • Marital struggles

Heal the Heart in Community

Explore healing with horses through one of our community care groups

  • Foster youth
  • Human trafficking
  • Spiritual growth
  • Treatment center partnerships

Why the Horse?

Working with horses in a therapeutic way provides unique openings for clarity in relationships, healing of old wounds and learning new ways of being. The feedback we hear most consistently from clients is a feeling of deep calm and an overall sense of wellness.

We call this experience the emotional reset button, which is a gift horses give us. Work with horses affects us on many levels including the physiological, relational, psychological and physical.

Psychological
Horses create opportunities for deep healing by accessing places in us where it has been difficult to be vulnerable. This safe space provides new pathways for the awareness needed to make change.

Depression - There are many causes of depression and its manifestation is unique to each individual. For some, working with a horse can provide a shift in mood to a more positive space and the awareness needed to make change

Anxiety -   Simply put, anxiety is an inability to remain in the present moment. The beautiful thing about horses is they live only in the present, and because of their powerful influence on us, when we work with them, we are pulled into a state of mindful presence in the current moment.

Trauma - Addressing trauma through equine therapy has proven to be successful and there is growing research around its effectiveness. Clients often find it easier to process trauma while in the presence of a horse. There is a felt sense of safety and ability to stay grounded, which is essential to addressing trauma and working through PTSD.

Relational
Like us, relationships are essential for horses. In the wild, their survival depends on their connection to family and community. They seek harmony with each other, build friendships and form deep bonds. When working with a horse, the same patterns we struggle with in relationships quickly surface. These patterns become clear and you are offered to try something new in the safety of this relationship.

Physiological
Research has shown that just standing next to a horse can lower your heart rate. "Recent studies conducted by the Institute of HeartMath provide a clue to explain the bidirectional “healing” that happens when we are near horses. According to researchers, the heart has a larger electromagnetic field and higher level of intelligence than the brain: A magnetometer can measure the heart’s energy field radiating up to 8 to 10 feet around the human body. While this is certainly significant it is perhaps more impressive that the electromagnetic field projected by the horse’s heart is five times larger than the human one (imagine a sphere-shaped field that completely surrounds you). The horse’s electromagnetic field is also stronger than ours and can actually directly influence our own heart rhythm!
Horses are also likely to have what science has identified as a “coherent” heart rhythm (heart rate pattern) which explains why we may “feel better” when we are around them. . . studies have found that a coherent heart pattern or HRV is a robust measure of well-being and consistent with emotional states of calm and joy – that is, we exhibit such patterns when we feel positive emotions.
A coherent heart pattern is indicative of a system that can recover and adjust to stressful situations very efficiently. Often, we only need to be in a horse’s presence to feel a sense of wellness and peace. In fact, research shows that people experience many physiological benefits while interacting with horses, including lowered blood pressure and heart rate, increased levels of beta-endorphins (neurotransmitters that serve as pain suppressors), decreased stress levels, reduced feelings of anger, hostility, tension and anxiety, improved social functioning; and increased feelings of empowerment, trust, patience and self-efficacy.
www.heartmath.org

Our Team

Our dedicated team shares a commonality with the herd in that we all come from different life places and experiences that add to the overall experience. We all (horse and human) share a commitment to bringing healing to others through the power of connectedness.

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April Dona, MA, LMFT

Director, Co-Founder

April has loved all things equine for as long as she can remember and will never forget her first ride on a big Palomino named River. April was blessed to grow up riding, and spent time working on a ranch in college. This gave her the opportunity to interact with many different horses, it was here she fell in love with their intuitive nature and kind hearts. Her dream of bringing the horse into the healing process has been realized in her work as an Equine Facilitated Psychotherapist. April is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, she is also certified in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy. April's therapeutic philosophy involves inviting the horse as a willing participant into the session, she firmly believes in the horses ability to facilitate change and healing. She has worked with adults, children and families struggling with a variety of issues, and has been witness many times to the power of equine therapy.

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Sheila Segien

Equine Specialist, Co-Founder

Growing up in rural Idaho, Sheila's favorite thing to do as a young girl was to spend time on her grandparent's ranch in Montana and be among the horses. Carrying this love into her adult life, she has become very skilled at reading horses and brings years of experience into her sessions. 

As a student of her own horse, a beautiful Colonial Spanish Barb, she has learned how horses are the perfect teachers of patience, respect and understanding. After raising her children, she found her calling as an Equine Specialist. Sheila helps clients connect with the horses and discover new insights about themselves. 

She holds a certificate in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy and blends natural horsemanship and a good measure of heart into her work. Since 2009 she has worked as an Equine Specialist serving a variety of populations. Sheila loves this work and is a gift to those who benefit from her wisdom.

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Sue Conklin, LCSW

Lead Therapist

Sue has been in the social work profession for over 25 years with a commitment to helping others heal. She has worked with many populations including children and families engaged with the Social services system (adoption, family reunification and forensic interviewing of children who were victims of abuse), College age adults as a director of a college counseling center, private practice and foster youth. She also enjoys teaching and training other mental health professionals as a clinical supervisor. She is trained in EMDR and Natural Lifemanship.

Sue came to equine work as an avenue to support herself in her own healing journey. She’d always had a love of animals but little experience with horses. Over the last 5 years she has been so excited to watch and learn what the horses have to teach. Every day, she sees the intersection in best trauma practice and how horses live. It’s an honor to do this work alongside the Brave Grace herd and humans!

Our Herd

Our horses are our teachers, we respectfully consider them the most important part of the therapeutic team. At Brave Grace we have been gifted with a truly special group of beautiful horses that continually amaze us with their healing spirits.

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Journey

Journey is a Morgan/Arabian cross, born in 1999. He spent much of his life as a riding and lesson horse. His previous owner noticed that Journey had a special way with people. His gentle presence and calming spirit draws many hurting people to his side. As he engages in his leadership role in the herd, he offers a near perfect blend of holding space and setting boundaries with gentleness in between. You can often find Journey resting his head on the shoulder of someone who needs an extra dose of love. He is an integral part of the herd and embodies strength, comfort, and leadership.

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Eli

Eli is BLM Mustang gelding. He was born in 2010 in the wild in Northern California near the Nevada border. Eli was captured as part of the BLM herd management program when he was just a year old. He lived in a holding facility for 2 years before being chosen for the Mustang Makeover competition, held in Norco, CA in 2014. Eli placed well in the competition and was purchased by a couple, who after 6 weeks, decided they could not keep him. April heard about Eli needing a new home and adopted him. Eli is a sweet boy who takes a while to warm up to you. It took some for him to trust humans, but he’s come a long way. He can be aloof at times, but is goofy and smart. His favorite things to do are eat grass, hang with the other horses, and go exploring on trail.

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Mateo

Mateo is a mustang born in 2000. He was rounded up by the BLM and for the first 10 years of life had a variety of training experiences. Some offered choice for him, some offered choice for the human. He was then adopted by a kind owner who had life circumstances that didn’t allow him much interaction or further training. In some ways, he returned back to being feral and very untrusting of humans. With time, guidance, patience and positive reinforcement, he is enjoying life more in relationship with other Brave Grace horses and humans. He teaches true patience and value in growing relationships.
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Huckleberry

Huck is a sweet middle aged gelding, we do not know his exact age or breed because he was rescued from a kill-pen on his last day before being shipped to slaughter. When his current owner saw him, she knew she had to rescue him. Huck is now very well loved, he has a playful personality and always comes in for a close greeting when he encounters new friends. Despite the terrible circumstances he landed in, he loves people. He’s also the first to test and see if people or other horses have their boundaries in place. Huck loves his buddies in the herd, especially Eli and Journey, and is often the initiator of rambunctious play.

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Okie

Okie is a registered American Quarter Horse/Pony cross born 1999 in Murrieta, Oklahoma. He was a Pony Club pony and became a Hunter/Jumper show horse, winning many awards and championships. Okie has recently been working as a therapy horse and has a respectful attitude. He has a kind loving heart, and a soft nurturing temperament. Okie brings years of wisdom to this work and it really seems to be his calling. He relates to clients who suffer from codependency or anxiety. Okie's other favorite things are hanging out with the herd, being around children, and playing with the other horses.
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Dottie

Dottie is an Appaloosa pony born in 2007 who loves to go out and be with the herd. She can be a bit shy as you first approach her, but loves people and is ready and willing to earn your trust. She brings a quiet, calm presence to the herd and is always respectful of people and the other herd members. Whenever our groups circle up for processing, Dottie makes sure to join us and is a favorite of many clients.

Location

Our program is hosted at Serrano Creek Ranch Equestrian Center in Lake Forest. It is a hidden gem with easy freeway access and is next to a park so it offers the peace of nature and slow pace we often need. There are multiple working arenas. The park is also used as a place to take meditative horse walks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If I don’t have horse experience, is equine therapy going to assist me?

A: Yes! Often, when we step into something new or an old thing in a new way, we can deepen our learning and growing. Those initial learning steps are often some of the most powerful. Additionally, the staff hold safety with prominent importance so the experience can be helpful for all involved. You will be guided each step of the way.


QWhat should I wear?

A:We recommend clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. A hat, sunscreen and water to drink are also suggested. We have a loaner boot barn for you to borrow boots for safety if you don’t have your own.


Q: How many sessions are needed to help me?

A: The number of sessions vary depending on what you are wanting to accomplish. With your first session we can discuss your needs and goals and see what makes the best sense for you.


Q: Do you take insurance?

A: At this time, we do not take insurance. We can provide you a Superbill for you to submit to your insurance or health saving account for reimbursement.


Q: How much does a session cost?

A: We have a variety of rates depending on what is provided. Services include individual sessions, group sessions and workshops. For specific questions and information, please email April@bravegrace.com. We look forward to serving you.

Get in Touch

Feel free to drop us a line to contact us

  • Brave Grace, 25200 Trabuco Rd, Lake Forest, CA 92630
  •  562-397-6662                 
  • April@BraveGrace.com

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