Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy

Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is an experiential form of mental health therapy that uses interactions with a horse (equine) to facilitate individual growth and relational healing. Board-certified therapists use experiences with a horse and personal reflection to achieve the participant’s therapy goals. Individual, family and group sessions are offered and can include riding or working with a horse on the ground.

EAP at One Heart Stables began in 1995 as a service to the children in the residential center on the Christian Children’s Home of Ohio campus. The program has expanded to serve children and adults in the general public. Our mission remains to improve the quality of life for our clients through compassionate equine-assisted therapy.

Our team looks forward to hearing from you and helping you achieve your goals. Most insurances are accepted.

Why Horses?

Horses are unique because they offer a pure, nonjudgmental relationship to the client. A horse’s instincts cause the animal to live in the present moment and react to immediate surroundings; therefore, a horse often reacts to the mood and behavior of the participant. Whereas a dog loves unconditionally and a cat loves quite conditionally, a horse’s behavior is always honest.

Horses offer clients struggling with depression, low self-esteem or anxiety the opportunity to engage in authentic connection. The concepts learned in developing a relationship with a horse can be easily translated to developing healthy relationships with others.


What is Therapeutic Riding?

Therapeutic riding helps to benefit those with special needs or disabilities cognitively, physically, and emotionally. Therapeutic riding can help to increase flexibility, balance, and strength in those with physical disabilities, as well as encourage verbal and non-verbal communication. Grooming, caring for the horse, and riding all offer sensory input, improve fine motor skills, and help to increase a rider’s social skills. Sessions are offered in group or individual settings.

Sessions typically consist of learning how to groom, saddle, lead, and ride a horse; lessons may also include playing games under saddle, listening to music, and trail riding. With our calm and steady horses, trained volunteers, and mounting ramp, we can safely help riders of many different ages and abilities learn how to ride a horse. Autism, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, Down syndrome, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease, and those with hearing, vision, or speech impediments have all found benefit from participating in our therapeutic riding program. Therapeutic riding is a unique and beneficial therapy, all under the pretense of having fun.

Who can benefit?

Children and adults with the following challenges can benefit from participation in EAP:

  • Depression, anxiety or trauma disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Relationship or communication problems
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Behavioral issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders

Meet our team

One Heart Stables is utilized by the youth in the Children’s Residential Center at CCHO as well as children and adults in the general public for equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) and therapeutic riding. Our therapists are certified instructors in equine-specialized therapy, and they are eager to help you achieve your goals.

Our staff benefits from its training and affiliation with Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH International), the industry leader in therapeutic riding. Learn more about our caring team below.

Carla Plegge, B.A., LSW

Program Director & CCHO Therapist

Carla has worked at Christian Children’s Home of Ohio since 1990. She graduated from the University of Akron with a Social Work degree and is currently a Licensed Social Worker. Carla has worked in CCHO’s Residential Treatment Program, Encompass Outpatient, and is currently the director of Encompass Equine Therapy. Carla specializes in equine-assisted psychotherapy and using the horse to facilitate positive changes in people’s lives. Carla loves working at CCHO because she is able to combine her love for horses with children and adults in need. Carla has over 20 years of experience in the horse industry, including her own personal riding experience and experience as a riding instructor. Carla is married to her husband John and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren in her free time.

Email: pleggec@ccho.org

Krista Overmire, M.S., LPC

Outpatient Equine Therapist

Krista studied psychology and youth ministry at Malone University and obtained her Master’s degree in Community Mental Health Counseling at The University of Akron. Krista specializes in equine-assisted psychotherapy, which combines her love of horses with her passion for serving others in Christ’s name. Krista grew up on the back of a horse and was a competitive rider in the sport of eventing when she was younger. Krista enjoys jumping, trail riding, and just spending time at the barn with her horse Oscar. Krista is married to her husband Luke and has one horse and two cats.

Email: overmirek@ccho.org

Melissa McMullen, LSW

Outpatient Equine Therapist

Melissa received her Bachelor of Social Work from Youngstown State University after completing her Associate’s in Human and Social Services from Stark State College. Melissa specializes in equine-assisted psychotherapy, which pairs her love for horses with her desire to assist individuals achieve their goals. Melissa loves seeing the relationship that individuals can experience while working with horses and utilizing their strengths. Melissa began riding horses at ten years old and enjoys jumping and trail riding. Melissa is married to her husband Ryan and enjoys traveling, camping, and experiencing nature.

Email: mcmullenm@ccho.org

Crystal Weaver

Path International Certified Equine Instructor

Crystal has been involved with various therapeutic riding programs for over 10 years and became a registered instructor in 2014. Crystal also works in CCHO’s residential cottages. As a result, Crystal has the unique opportunity to train the CCHO residents as volunteers in the therapeutic riding program, which increases the residents’ self-worth and teaches them how to give back to the community. Crystal has ridden and owned horses since she was 13 years old in multiple disciplines, including barrel racing, dressage, and trail riding.

Email: weaverc@ccho.org

Connect with Us

Want to learn more about therapeutic riding, or interested in making an appointment? Send us a confidential message using the form below. We will review your message and contact you using the information you provide.