I am a native of the North Georgia Mountains but currently live in FL with my husband and two teenage boys. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in three different states, with a Master’s of Science in Counseling and Psychology. I am currently a doctoral candidate for my Doctorate of Psychology in Industrial & Organizational Leadership. I am also designated as a National Certified Counselor and hold a Military Designation for the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA).
I began this incredible journey with the Lone Survivor Foundation while working the very first retreat in 2011, as the original Equine Team Therapist. While planning for this retreat, I learned that Marcus grew up on a horse ranch and wanted to incorporate horses therapeutically. I was excited to share my passion for equine therapy with the military participants and after the success of this retreat, I was brought on as the only contracted equine therapist for the initial three years. I was humbled to be trusted with the responsibility of helping build and develop the foundation for the remarkable program that exists today. Then in 2015, I was hired full time as the first Team Leader and was responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution for 18 retreats per year. I currently work as a contract Team Leader, continuing my work with Lone Survivor on a part-time basis. After working roughly 60 retreats over the years, it has been incredible to see the healing and progress that takes place.
Like Marcus, I grew up with my Dad making a living training and working with horses my entire life. I was given my first horse before I was even able to walk. Like most people, I had suffered several losses in my own life and personally knew how my horse had kept me from spiraling down emotionally and creating stability for me in chaotic times. I had a passion for horses and was working toward my degree in veterinarian medicine to become a large animal vet. After graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinarian Technology, I met my amazing husband who was in the Army ROTC in college. Soon after we met, he sustained an injury which caused him to give up his dreams of a career in the Army. Growing up as a military brat, his desire to serve his country did not go away, so he soon joined the Air Force. Thus, beginning our journey and creating a sincere passion for me to help military members. As with most of my adventures in life, I was not sure what would happen with my plan to go to vet school, but I decided to leave it to the higher power to lead me in the right direction.
As we arrived at our first duty station, my husband came home with information about local colleges and programs. There was a counseling program on base that sounded appealing, and I decided to complete my Master’s in psychology. I had read about counselors using horses with people dealing with mental health issues, and this sounded too good to be true. The idea of working with horses and people seemed like such a great fit for me, the ability to help others who were struggling with the horse who had been there for my most of my life, Leo.
Leo was a majestic quarter horse, whom I received when I was 12 years old. Leo was a two-year-old stallion who had not been worked with before, and my Dad told me to “figure out how to ride him.” Now, I had been helping my Dad work with young horses and watching him train, but this was the first horse that I trained on my own. It took me a few years, but I taught him to barrel race, and we competed throughout high school. Leo traveled with us across the country for each PCS and soon became the main therapy horse for my private practice. Shortly after opening my private practice, I joined the LSF team as the equine team therapist.
At the beginning of the Lone Survivor Foundation, the team consisted of just three of us. We started with a social worker running psychoeducational groups, and the equine team providing equine assisted learning. That first year, we completed four retreats. Since then, we have managed to deliver over forty retreats in some years and bring on many talented providers. Over the years, we developed a broader curriculum to include neurofeedback, accelerated resolution therapy, alpha stim, yoga, and others. Throughout my years at LSF, I played an integral part in building and sustaining the program. As the only remaining original team member, I can honestly say that working at LSF has added so much to my life and I am so proud to be still serving those who give so much for us.
Connie currently serves as the Clinical Director for Healing Hoof Steps in Crestview FL, near where her husband is currently stationed at Eglin AFB. She provides Equine Assisted Learning/Psychotherapy, Accelerated Resolution Therapy and Alpha-Stim for individuals, couples, and families. Connie also is a contract Team Leader for LSF and provides ongoing support for the equine program team members. She has presented on working with OEF/OIF veterans at two international conferences and was a peer reviewer for the college level textbook, The Comprehensive Guide to Equine Assisted Activities & Therapies.
LONE SURVIVOR FOUNDATION provides a high-impact path to mental wellness for veterans, active duty service members, and their families. Our participants experience an accelerated growth program guided by licensed trauma experts during a series of no-cost therapeutic retreats which are designed to provide the tools and guidance to take them from surviving to thriving. Learn more about our program here.