When I first met Frankie Parker, I was struck by her shy unassuming demeanor. She looked at me over dark-rimmed glasses; her long red hair wound into a bun. What would later strike me about her, was her incredible passion for horses, compassion for people, and the desire to bring them together.
Talk to anyone who works with horses, and you will hear about their “therapeutic” value. From grooming and feeding to riding, horse lovers will tell you the benefits of the human/equine bond. Frankie, a certified instructor, at Equestrian Crossing (or EqX as the staff calls it), says horses can improve the quality of life of both children and adults alike.
EqX came together on Whidbey Island, in August of 2009 and Frankie, a long-time horsewoman, joined the ranks the following year. Frankie has served at all levels from volunteer to a Board member. She says, “It was the opportunity to combine my love of horses and my love for helping people that interested me in the Equestrian Crossing program.”
What makes EqX unique is that it is one of the few equestrian programs of its kind in the United States. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, EqX prides itself on being a grassroots member-driven and member-operated program. It’s a community program made up of certified instructors, licensed health care professionals, volunteers and some exceptional volunteer horses. Dedicated certified instructors, like Frankie, provide quality horsemanship lessons, integrating both non-disabled and adaptive students of all abilities and ages into the same lessons. While you might not find the raw energy of a rodeo, you will find a compassionate staff providing a safe, caring environment for their students.
Equestrian Crossing hand picks their horses for their sensitivity in reflecting the emotional state of those around them. Often horses reflect what people are feeling. A bond can form through activities like leading, feeding, haltering, grooming and riding. Their formidable appearance combined with their gentleness and accepting nature helps people explore the benefits of trust and empathy.
EqX provides adaptive horsemanship for those in need of physical assistance, as well as equine-assisted psychological and emotional therapies. Frankie says the differences she has seen over the last eight years in the students is remarkable, especially in students with Autism. Students have become more self-confident, self-controlled, less fearful and more communicative. They have gone from scattered to focused. Those with physical disabilities have developed better balance and more muscular control. Frankie says the most significant rewards are the smiles and witnessing the breakthroughs students experience as they conquer their goals.
Many of the volunteers are members of the military, and there are talks of developing a program especially for Vets who suffer from PTSD. As they struggle to reconnect with the people in their lives, the equine/human bond gives them the opportunity to work on feeling connected again.
Beyond providing therapy for their students, Frankie says she enjoys participating in the educational and community social events. EqX offers various seminars and demonstrations. Eventually, they would like to expand the program to provide vaulting lessons (gymnastics on horseback). They also try to bring awareness to the program by participating in Island-wide parades.
This exceptional community of horse lovers has directed their passion for horses to meet a need on Whidbey Island. Frankie encourages anyone who wants to volunteer in the program to get in touch. They are always on the lookout for new volunteers. The military volunteers often rotate out as they receive new orders. She laughs, “You don’t have to have any experience with horses to get involved!” Equestrian Crossing draws on the community to make up its board members, and they are always in need of grant writers.
Frankie Parker is still a shy, unassuming woman, but mention horses and helping people and watch her light up like a house on fire. Providing equine therapy for others just might be providing therapy for her too. Frankie is a great example of how doing good for others, does good for you.
EqX has two locations, the Whidbey Equestrian Center in Coupeville, and Rein Shadow Arena in Greenbank. Scholarships are available to ensure anyone who may benefit from the program has access. For more information, please call them at (360) 320-1573 and leave a message or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.