The equine therapist

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Plopped onto a horse at only a few months old, Jenny Norton Schamber, the owner and trainer of Rope This Ranch, cannot picture a life without them. With over 30 years of experience with horses, and with the ranch being open for 18 of those years, Schamber’s love of riding began at a young age.

“I was born riding on a horse,” she said.

An Upland native, Schamber completed her undergraduate degree in mathematical economics at Ball State University. She then went on to receive her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University. While at Ball State, she was on the equestrian team. In 1996, on Ball State’s team, she competed in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and placed 3rd in the nation for Open Stock Seat.

Just four years later, she opened the ranch, located just two miles from Taylor’s campus. Currently, she is a counselor at Taylor’s Counseling Center, in addition to her regularly scheduled lessons at the ranch. Schamber has incorporated some equine therapy in her lessons, which is a type of therapy that involves horses.

She recalled using the therapy with some adolescent boys from a group home. As a result of the riding, the boys channeled their energy into a positive outlet instead of expressing themselves in negative ways.

“People say ‘When do you relax?’ but this is how I relax,” Schamber said, gesturing to the barn around her with a laugh. “There’s something therapeutic about being in the barn for me.

Casually dressed in jeans, a red sweatshirt layered with a black vest and riding boots one day last week, Schamber projected an easy going personality, much like the atmosphere surrounding her barn. The 120,000 square-foot indoor space is lined with dusty metal rails with dark, grainy sand covering the ground.

When the doors to the entrance of the barn are open and it’s lightly drizzling, the rain mixes with the smell of horses to produce a peaceful aura.

While training at a recent Tuesday night’s lesson, Schamber called out commands for the horse and rider duos to complete. Phrases like, “Round the yellow barrel” and “Heels down, eyes up” could be heard across the room, interspersed with encouraging comments.

She believes there are many ways we can learn from horses. Since she has worked with a lot of horses that have been abused, it is evident horses feel things, according to Schamber. She sees their initial mistrust and gradually gains it through baby steps, similar to how human beings relate to one another.

Despite the possible setbacks in the beginning, nothing compares to the proud feeling Schamber has when she sees a student succeed. One recent example involved a horse who would not pick up his legs, but after time and practice, jumped the hay bales one foot taller than necessary to clear them.

“(Seeing it,) it was like a horse and human team, seeing how far they’ve come in that,” Schamber said. “I get to see that happen a lot, which is really cool about my job.”

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