About Equinection

“The facility is beautiful – ideal, actually.”

- Abby N., Florida

About Us

Equinection is both a place and a series of life-changing programs. Our setting is integral to the work that we do. The beauty, serenity, and privacy of our 112-acre farm nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina are conducive to reflection and insight. For those participants who wish to combine our retreat experience with a visit before or after to Asheville, we are 45 miles away (1 hour drive).

Equinection is not therapy; it is a unique educational opportunity. Our programs are life changing. We help people uncover their innate strengths, improve their relationships, bring out the best in themselves and others, and live the life they envision.

We tailor our programs to the specific needs of each participant and limit attendance in each program to 6 – 8 people. The small size of our groups is unusual among equine-facilitated learning programs, and we believe, essential for lasting experiential learning.

We blend methods of modern-day experiential education and the study of human dynamics with the time-tested wisdom of horse-facilitated learning. Guided by a gifted teacher, this combination translates into programs that are powerful, practical, and effective. For more information on Equine Facilitated Learning, click here.

Our programs are not for everyone. Those who benefit most are people who are committed to personal growth and living more meaningful lives. They are willing to explore the unconscious patterns and limitations that keep them from living life more fully and honestly.

The lessons learned at Equinection continue to unfold long after leaving this peaceful mountain retreat.

The Farm

The Facility

Equinection is located on 112 acres developed specifically for our experiential education practice. The land was selected because of its raw beauty and privacy. Being on this land and with our horses is a vital part of the whole Equinection experience.

Every choice made constructing Equinection was carefully considered to support participants’ growth and learning. Walking trails and meditation areas are designed for quiet reflection of the work with the horses.

Meeting in our outdoor classrooms maintains a connection to nature and the horses throughout the program.

Located in the heart of the facility, The Meeting Space is our participants “home” during the day. It has a full kitchen, large porch overlooking the valley, and a spacious meeting room.

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The Horses’ Home

Our horses are our treasured companions.They live in pastures with access to fresh flowing spring water and home-grown grass hay. We exercise and work the horses with the goal of creating and maintaining a trusting relationship. We are constantly learning new ways of relating that deepen our understanding of our herd.

GREEN Aspects of the Facility

Building placement, materials, and landscaping were all planned and designed first and foremost to ensure the highest learning for each client and respect for the land. To preserve the maximum amount of open space we built on very few acres. We utilized local materials and labor to minimize our carbon footprint.

  • Trees were milled locally and used in buildings and fences
  • Barn and stall flooring is 100% recycled tires.
  • Reclaimed chestnut wood, salvaged from old barns, has been used throughout the buildings in place of purchased moldings and trim.
  • 6 – 8” Soy-based insulation was used in all buildings.
Our Mission

To help people live more fulfilling lives by realizing their intrinsic gifts of strength, wisdom, and peace. To inspire participants to deepen self-awareness through interaction with horses.

History

Karen-head-13My family’s business was a conference center outside of Washington, DC. in the foothills of northern Virginia. My childhood job was taking conferees horseback riding. A diverse and fascinating array of people came for conferences from The Department of Defense to the NAACP, as well as medical groups, statesmen and politicians. I grew close to many of the conferees over the years. It didn’t seem odd to me that a child and these amazing professionals could become friends; connecting was easy because it came from the heart. We connected through horses.

Matching a horse to the right person was an important part of the job, teaching the essence of horsemanship on the fly and reading the capabilities of adults regardless of what they claimed as their horsemanship skills. As it turns out, the elements of these skills are essential to my EFL practice at Equinection.

In the 40 years that followed, among other jobs, I worked on a cattle ranch, acted and directed in the theatre, won an Emmy working on documentary films, and raised a family. In 2004, Equinection officially opened for business. I had two horses on less than four acres in the city limits of Asheville, NC. and offered one workshop on personal development.

Today, Equinection is located on 112 acres in Yancey County, NC and has a herd of 11 horses. It took six years to build the facility – a barn, 100-square foot indoor arena, meeting space, outdoor classrooms, round pens, lovely gardens and grounds. Participants spend most of their time outdoors on the land working with the horses, journaling, or walking quietly on the trails. The beauty and serenity of the farm has become integral to the Equinection experience.

I now offer six workshops for personal development, leadership and recovery, among others. The programs developed over the fullness of time, as I integrated my life experiences and education into enriching and transformative experiences for participants.

Just as horses have curious natures and are natural explorers, I continue to push the boundaries of EFL and expand my teaching to better help people feel rooted in and nurtured by life.

To me, Equinection represents a kind of divine balance because my work with people has come full circle. For now, just as when I was a child, I connect with people’s hearts through grace offered in the form of the horse.

The Staff

Karen-HeadExecutive Director, Karen Head

M.Ed. Creative Arts Education
Advanced Eponaquest Facilitator
Consummate Teacher Training from Nierika Sol

Karen has studied and practiced experiential education for thirty years. Her background and training in experiential arts education is a strong foundation for her work at Equinection. The expressive arts techniques she offers anchor and enrich clients’ experiences.

Her experiences with horses are rich and diversified. She grew up riding horses and has been a trail guide, riding teacher, and ranch hand. Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) combines Karen’s love for horses and experiential learning to help people come to a deeper awareness of themselves and their lives.

After completing the Advanced Epona Facilitator-Training program, Karen sought to further improve her teaching skills. She began a concentrated study of teaching and facilitating at Nierika Sol where self-awareness is a major focus.

Karen values the challenge of self-discovery, and the courage it takes to look within for answers. As a result of her extensive and ongoing training, Karen developed a specialized Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL)/Equine Assisted Learning program at Equinection that uses awareness as a guide to self-discovery and personal transformation. She is a dedicated and gifted teacher.


kennethKenneth Johnson, Foreman

Without Kenneth, Equinection would not be what it is today. Over six years, he and Karen planned the development of Equinection. Kenneth did all of the excavating and most of the building. He is a talented man who is as good with a horse as he is with a track-hoe. He oversees the care of the horses and the land. Everything Kenneth does is to the highest standard. He is an integral part of the Equinection family.


kimKim Bentley, Barn Manager

Kim (Kenneth’s daughter) came to us at the very beginning, and worked with her father clearing the land for pastures. Simply put, Kim has brought color and warmth to Equinection. She followed behind the excavation landscaping and planting gardens. Her flowers bloom from the earliest of spring to late fall. Her main job is to take care of the horses, which is the best support she offers, as the way we care for the horses determines the ability the horses have to care about our participants. With her open and generous spirit, Kim finds many ways to support participants from making sure there is a chair to rest on or a much-needed bottle of water available on a hot day. Kim, like her father, is a valuable asset to the whole Equinection community.


justinJustin Gurley, Jack-of-All-Trades

Justin is a hand with the horses, a fine farrier, and a skilled builder. He is a part of the Equinection construction and maintenance crew and helps us prepare for the workshops. Participants won’t see much of Justin; he likes to work behind the scenes. He is shown here with our mare, Shug, because he is her favorite and she insisted that she be on the website with Justin. The relationship Justin has with the horses is evident in this photo. We are lucky to have him on our staff.


pollyPolly Knowles, Office Manager

Polly oversees the office and ensures the administrative side of Equinection runs smoothly. She manages all registrations, the books, and organizing details for each workshop.  Polly brings order, expertise, and a warm welcoming voice to the business of Equinection.


blueKenny “Blue” Wilson, Assistant Barn Manager

Blue works with Kim to prepare the grounds and horses for our workshops. He has a gentle hand with the horses and a keen eye for keeping Equinection in top shape.

Why Horses?

A Catalyst for Change

The natural world has been a fundamental source of learning for humans since ancient times, and horses have played an important role in the learning process. Throughout the centuries, horses have endured as symbols of elegance and strength. Much of the strength of equine facilitated learning is in the positive feelings we experience in connecting with horses. Simply put, most people who have spent time around horses feel better around them. Studies on the interaction of humans and horses show that people have relaxing physical responses when they are with horses. Horses’ responses depend on humans’ emotional states, so as the person relaxes and sends positive feelings toward the horse, the horse relaxes.

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The feelings of wellness and relaxation that we experience during these interactions create in us a willingness to change. Research points to two key reasons why people are motivated to look inside themselves when working with horses: First, people feel fundamentally better around horses, and 2. The desire to connect with the horse motivates us to alter our behavior and beliefs in order to strengthen the relationship. Often, these behaviors and beliefs are ones with far-reaching effects in our relationships with others and ourselves.

“Working with horses in a therapeutic setting,” writes Dr. Adele McCormick, a psychologist and EFT practitioner, “we are presented with the immediacy of establishing a relationship in which lack of alertness gets immediate feedback [from the horse] in the form of unruly, indifferent, confused, or rebellious behavior from the animal. Our attentiveness gains love.”

The immediacy that McCormick describes is the perfect environment for dissolving emotional blocks that undermine our growth and well-being. Because these blocks or fears work at deep levels, many of us are unaware of them. In working with a horse, however, we become aware of these obstructions, often for the first time. We are freed to experience the truth and validity of the moment and respond authentically. This begins a transformative process that extends far beyond the immediate circumstance to other important relationships and situations in our lives.

The Rewards of Focus

We lead busy lives. Our Western work ethic demands so much of us that we often consider slowing down or resting a bonus. Unfortunately, without rest, we compensate with other behaviors that can become destructive. Electronic devices and constant communication are the norm. We reap some substantial rewards from this perpetual interaction and activity, yet they can come at a significant emotional and physical cost.

As we work with horses, some cultural norms come into question. A common one is our tendency toward multi-tasking—texting while we eat lunch, responding to email while talking on the phone are typical examples. An individual attracts a horse when the person is focused and present in the moment. This single-minded focus, which may feel unfamiliar to many of us, offers a new way of relating, one that requires us to focus on the present when communicating with someone else. This practice alone can be surprisingly relaxing and refreshing.

Freedom from Judgment

Horses are prey animals and must “read” their environment in order to survive. As a result, they have an exceptional sensitivity to their surroundings and the energy it contains. Horses respond to a person’s inner dynamics as a matter of course, on an elemental level. They have no moral judgment, and therefore, don’t perceive us as “good” or “bad.” In our attempts to connect with a horse, this feels like unconditional acceptance. For those for whom this experience is uncommon—and that includes many, if not most of us—this sense of acceptance provides the impetus for discovering what we need to know about ourselves and what holds us back from relating to the horse. Without judgment, we have less fear of our discoveries about ourselves, and more ability to focus on the present moment.

Horses help us uncover the ways in which insulate ourselves to avoid fear and discomfort. When we try to cover up or deny fear, a horse will act afraid. Because horses are large, it is impossible to ignore their responses. Because horses are elemental creatures and do not lie, we are able to recognize the patterns of behavior that separates us from the horse. And because of horses’ gentle natures, we will go to great lengths, instinctively, to connect with them.

Fostering Confidence

Immersing ourselves in a relationship with a horse requires creative problem solving, thinking, and action. We are asked to tap our inner resources to discover a shared language that will allow us to engage favorably with the horse. Our efforts increase our confidence, build strength of character and suppleness of mind, and focus us absolutely on maintaining integrity in all the decisions we make.


  1. Dr. Ellen Kaye Gehrke, Ph.D. Book chapter: Walking the Way of the Horse: Exploring the Power of the Horse-Human Relationship. Chapter: Equine Facilitated Professional Coaching, Universe publications. 2008.
  2. McCormick et al., 2004, p.42, Horse Sense and the Human Heart
  3. If You Think You’re Good at Multitasking, You Probably Aren’t
  4. The Concentration Killer: Multitasking

Just For Women

  • Awakening for Women
  • Women and Leadership

Leadership Development

  • Leadership – “The Next Step”
  • Women and Leadership

Recovery

  • Just for Today
  • Journey of the Heart

Community Service

  • Helping Professionals
  • One Day at a Time

NASW Approved CEUs offered for selected programs

Have questions?

Call us at 828-682-9157 or write us today.