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Alumni & Friends

The Horse Whisperer


Photo of Alane Freund and two of her horses. Photo by Robert Tong/The Marin Independent JournalTell a lie in Alane Freund's therapy sessions and her horses will see right through you.
Photo by Robert Tong/The Marin Independent Journal.

Alane Freund (M.S., '94) has loved horses since she was a girl growing up on a ranch in Oklahoma. She jokes that as the youngest child, she was mostly raised by Sundown, the family horse. But it wasn't until much later that she came to consider horses as her co-workers.

Freund owns and operates Friendly Trails Equine Assisted Leadership Center in Marin County. With her herd of horses she offers equine-assisted therapy to individuals and families, as well as leadership and team-building classes for groups. Equine Assisted Therapy is facilitated by a licensed mental health therapist and an equine specialist, both certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). Clients do exercises and activities with the horses on the ground in an arena, but don't ride.

"Horses have a way at getting to the heart of things quickly," Freund explains. "They always reflect back what you give them. We call them lie detectors. If you do one thing but think or feel another, the horses won't have anything to do with you."

When Freund earned her master's degree in clinical psychology from SF State she had no idea she would combine her vocation and her passion. She was still doing "chair therapy" in San Francisco when she began teaching riding and training horses on the side to support her horse habit. "I quickly realized I was doing more than just teaching horsemanship. I was working on leadership and self-esteem issues with my students," she says. It wasn't long before a client told her about EAGALA. "I was thrilled and amazed to find that there was actually a field with rigorous standards. It was life-changing."

It also meshed perfectly with the training and education she received at SF State. "A lot of psych programs are so new agey that there are no real standards. San Francisco State had stringent ethical standards. I feel very safe in my therapeutic decisions. It's such a good match."

But it's not just the fortuitous confluence of standards, passion and vocation that thrills Freund, it's the day-to-day work. "There is major progress in every session," she says. "Something just completely brilliant and profound happens every time."


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