Hoofprint Meadows Therapy
Equine Assisted Learning and Psychotherapy
By Warren Hughes
As a daughter in a military family with frequent moves, Christy J. Rew had one constant in her youth—a bond with a beloved Palomino horse named Mac.
It’s easy to understand why a quote from Winston Churchill has become her personal motto: “There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.”
Christy is founder and director of Hoofprint Meadows Therapy, a private practice located in Blythewood. Highly individualized services include speech, language and swallowing therapy, riding lessons, horsemanship training, and equine-assisted activities and therapies. These services are available for community members of all ages, for those able-bodied and those with disabilities.
Christy and her husband Bill moved to Blythewood five years ago, following Bill’s retirement from the Air Force. During Bill’s career, spanning over three decades, Christy worked as a speech language pathologist, reared three daughters and volunteered supporting programs to benefit military members, spouses and children.
When Christy merged her military upbringing, speech pathology, and her passion for horses, Hoofprint Meadows Therapy was born.
Horses have been in Christy’s blood since early childhood. As a teenager, Christy relocated multiple times with her Air Force family. Over the next eighteen years, as the family crisscrossed the country, living in nine different states, her equine companion Mac was always in tow providing friendship and unconditional acceptance. Christy’s own early experience with the healing power of horses was key in her life’s journey.
Christy was born in Mountain Home, Idaho where her father, a career Air Force officer and pilot, was stationed. Christy met her future husband, Cadet Bill Rew, during her dad’s assignment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado. As high school ended it was time to sell Mac. “Although it was the right thing to do, it is a regret I’ve always had.”
Horses had to take a backseat during college and early married life while starting a family. Later, in her 30s, while Bill was stationed in Germany, Christy gained her first exposure to English riding. “Twice weekly, three of us American women tempted fate when we rode over-priced, exceptionally tall and usually ill-mannered show jumping horses while our German-speaking trainer barked instructions and corrections,” she said.
Later, in her 40s, Christy was able to own her own horses again. “As my skills increased, so did my herd. Now I have five big personalities that fill my pastures, work hard, and bring me endless joy.”
Christy and Bill traveled to Washington, DC as his military retirement approached. She recalls, “Not long before leaving, I found a magazine article clipping about war veterans being helped using the horses from the Caisson Unit at Ft. Meyer. We took a side trip, toured the barn and visited with the soldiers assigned to this special unit dedicated to the care of the Caisson teams that pull the caskets of the Fallen to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.
“I noticed some activity in a round corral. What I saw that day, changed my life. An amputee was mounted on the back of one of the big white carriage team horses. He was working hard to keep his balance and I learned later he was a patient suffering from traumatic brain injury as a result of an explosion.”
Christy met Mary Jo Beckman, the retired Navy officer named in her yellowed newspaper clipping and learned about a program called Horses for Heroes. Patients from nearby Walter Reid Army hospital, amputees, those suffering with head injuries, and PTSD, had been coming to Fort Myer and spending time healing with horses.
“As I watched horse and rider move cautiously around the pen, my military upbringing, decades as a military spouse, speech therapy career, and passion for horses, all crystalized.
Over a three-year period, she volunteered at therapeutic riding centers in Virginia, studied, was mentored, trained, and taught student lessons to gain the skills and experience needed to pass rigorous certification requirements.
She continued, “It was a time of intense personal struggle for me. My mother, recently deceased from bladder cancer, could no longer care for my father who had a degenerative muscle disease. My training was put on hold several times until his death in 2013. While grieving and working through his estate, my time at the center and with my personal horses, helped sustain me.”
It was during this time that her recognition of the healing power of the horse escalated. Her interest in healing not only the physical body with horses, but the spiritual one, led her to seek additional certification in the field of Equine Assisted Learning and Psychotherapy.
Moving to Blythewood in 2014, credentials in hand, Christy sought out a mental health partner interested in the field of equine assisted therapies. Stephanie Bowman Czeresko, owner of Pathways Growth and Learning Center, LLC, and Christy have now partnered for four years providing equine assisted therapies at Hoofprint Meadows and at the Big Red Barn, which provides therapeutic services to veterans and active duty military and their families at no cost.
She movingly declared, “I am very proud and humbled to be able to give back to military families having spent all but the last five years of my life in a military family. I personally know of the sacrifices it takes to love and support someone who serves.”
Speaking of equine assisted therapies Christy muses that horses take on a heavy load when individuals with anxiety, anger, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse, come to the barn to work out their problems. At this point, the horse becomes a team member, reacting in honest ways to the input received from his surroundings, horse peers, and human partners. Individuals self-assess, reflect, and challenge old ideas and habits when seeing themselves through the lens of the horse.
“My work building relationships with horses has made me more sensitive to the feedback of others, both verbal and non-verbal. Untethered horses are free to leave if they are bored, scared, or uninterested in you. Learning to be playful, provocative, and interesting not only improves the horse-human relationship but also benefits our relationships with others.”
“Speech language therapy with my special needs clients is amazingly satisfying as well. Horses aren’t always used in therapy but when they are, I find them super-motivating for the patient. If ridden, the horse’s movement mimics that of the human body and provides very needed input to individuals who are not able to move themselves sufficiently due to their disabilities. A single session can provide the equivalency of 2,000 human steps. That’s a lot of practice and very hard work for some of these individuals.”
Christy has two advanced degrees: Master’s in Special Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Master of Arts in Speech Pathology from Louisiana Tech University.
She holds numerous licenses, certifications, and credentials to perform services in the medical career field of speech pathology and in the equine industry as an Equine Specialist, Therapeutic Riding Instructor, and Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist (HPCS).
For more information, email Christy at firstname.lastname@example.org.