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Healing hooves

Laura Glenn finds fulfillment in helping others 

15-acre farm on Gary Anders Road in Hartselle is much more than it might seem from the outside. It’s the home of Healing Hooves LLC, a family-owned horse farm that doubles as a way to help those struggling with a variety of problems and issues.  

Laura Glenn, the owner of Healing Hooves, has been around horses her entire life, and she’s a licensed independent clinical social worker in private practice. Earning her undergraduate degree and master’s degree in social work, from UAB and Alabama A&M, Glenn said her goal has been to one day broaden her practice to include horses as partners in mental health treatment.  

Glenn said she grew up learning many valuable life skills and lessons from horses through ownership, riding lessons and competitive equine events. Horses have been a lifelong gift and a positive dimension in my personal development. I want to share horses’ therapeutic value for growth and positive change with others,” she said.  

Glenn is an experienced Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association certified mental health professional and certified equine specialist. EAGALA is an established, leading association for equine therapy professionals. Applying the EAGALA model, horses are used at Healing Hooves in equine assisted psychotherapy and equine assisted learning exercises. EAP and EAL are solution-focused, brief approaches that successfully address many mental health needs and life skills challenges. Most recently, Glenn helped to coordinate an equine-assisted therapy program for Bradford Health Services in Warrior.  

Glenn said EAP and EAL are experiential models, meaning individuals learn about themselves and others in real time by participating in activities and exercises with horses. The activities are planned and coordinated by a Glenn and co-facilitated by an equine specialist who focuses on horse safety during activities and on the premises. Glenn said she learned her love of horses from her mother, Martha McMurray, who fills the equine specialist role at Healing Hooves. 

Glenn said EAP is among the most effective of the experiential therapies, and it is often used in conjunction with clinical counseling. Because horses are not for everyone, though, Healing Hooves also offers mental health counseling in a traditional office setting. In addition, Glenn is experienced in a wide variety of treatment specialties, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectal behavioral therapy, family/marital counseling, motivational interviewing, substance abuse counseling, person-centered treatment, grief counseling, psycho-dynamic therapy, solution-focused counseling, brief treatment and trauma-informed treatment. 

Glenn said equine therapy, even in its many forms, can’t be boxed in – running the gamut of disorders it can effectively treat. “It’s great for everything, and that’s the cool thing about it,” she said. “You might have someone who has test anxiety and, while that might not seem like an earth-shattering barrier to some, if you look at a 20-year-old who’s in college, and their test anxiety is so great that it’s interfering with their view of life and their success – it’s a problem.” It’s a problem equine therapy can help solve. 

Glenn said the horses teach mood regulation and life skills – often without the participant being acutely aware. She said a lot of progress can happen between sessions, too.  

“Anyone who has had horses like I have for their entire life knows how much horses can teach a person,” she said. “They can teach someone everything from the importance of having a strong work ethic to important life skills and relationship building skills.” 

No horseback riding is involved at Healing Hooves. All exercises are conducted 100 percent on the ground. 

Glenn’s equine team is made of up of two mares, a black roan American Quarter Horse named Midnight and a bay Thoroughbred named Dixie, plus two geldings, a black and white pinto named Beau and a true golden palomino named Doc. Two pint-size team members are a miniature horse named Dolly and a small Shetland Pony named Tiny Tim. All our horses are as gentle as they can be, and they are excellent people readers,” Glenn said.    

The professional staff at Healing Hooves is skilled and experienced, Glenn said, having worked in a variety of settings – including hospice care, child and adult protective services, severe psychiatric care, trauma, substance use and other mental health programs. They accept and have worked with children, adolescents, adults of all ages, couples, families and small groups to address a range of treatable issues, including grief work, life balance problems, life transitions, relationship conflict, self-esteem, stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, family and marital conflict, substance abuse, autism, learning disabilities, behavioral problems and more. 

I wanted to combine my passions, and I knew how effective it was … With equine therapy, you don’t have to verbalize how you’re feeling, as it often happens naturally in this process,” she said. “It helps people break down a lot of barriers.”  

“It’s an amazing thing to witness – and it can very spiritual,” McMurray added. “Sometimes the horses choose a specific person to bond with based on what they can sense.” 

Healing Hooves is located at the Glenn home at 67 Gary Anders Road in Hartselle. For more information, visit www.healinghoovesllc.com or call Glenn at 256-318-6300