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Staff Spotlight: Congratulations, Dr. Andrew Pearson!


By the time you read this, Chinook Horses team member Andrew Pearson will have graduated from his occupational therapy doctoral program at the University of Mary!

If you or your child is a client at Chinook Horses, you may have seen Andrew over the past few months at the barn as he was working on his thesis. His thesis, which is required for him to graduate, involved creating a manual for the Leadership Development Program (LDP) for facilitators to use, as well as conducting pre- and post-session surveys on the effectiveness of LDP in reaching client goals.

For those who are not familiar with LDP, the program was created by Carolyn Yegen and Chinook Horses founder Abigail Hornik specifically for Chinook Horses! LDP teaches children and teen clients how to regulate their emotions through mindfulness techniques such as the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Children by Sean Covey and the Zones of Regulation, with an added equine element.

What Andrew did with the manual was take these concepts and explain them so that facilitators of LDP know in detail what they are teaching. It is Andrew’s hope that the manual he created will not only be beneficial to Chinook Horses, but to other equine therapy practices across the country interested in facilitating LDP themselves as well!

“He made us look very, very good!” Carolyn Yegen says of Andrew’s effort.

“I hope that [the manual] will give [Chinook Horses] an opportunity to grow as an organization and train new facilitators and receive more community involvement,” Andrew says.

Originally from right here in Billings, Andrew has been working towards his doctorate at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. He first came to be involved with Chinook Horses because of past research that the university had done with our organization. Because of his interest in equine therapy and the hometown connection, Chinook Horses turned out to be a good place for him to develop his thesis.

What is occupational therapy? Like equine therapy, occupational therapy helps people regulate their emotions and behaviors so that they can better manage how they function in their daily lives. Both are more experiential modes of therapy that allow for freedom of movement, instead of being confined to an office where you are limited on what materials you can use.

Andrew likes the connection between equine therapy and occupational therapy because the use of open spaces and relationships with animals allows for more creativity and positive interaction with the clients, often leading to better results over a shorter period of time than with traditional therapy!

Andrew is motivated to succeed in his new career by the previous therapists that he’s worked with, as well as his undergraduate professors that first got him interested in studying therapy. After he receives his doctorate, Andrew is looking to work at a hospital or university that has adaptive technology and acute care to help those with disabilities make it easier for themselves to accomplish the daily tasks that may be difficult for them to achieve without this technology and care. 

If you’re someone from Montana who is struggling with mental illness or disability, this is what Andrew has to say: “It’s okay to ask for help. There are good resources available locally… you don’t have to feel isolated.”

Andrew shares the hope with Chinook Horses that through our efforts, equine-assisted therapy will receive more support than it currently does from the medical community and other local organizations who may not realize just how beneficial and effective equine-assisted therapy can be.

If you see Andrew around Billings, be sure to congratulate him for his achievements and thank him for all the hard work he’s done to make Chinook Horses an even stronger organization than before!

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