Ep 10: Nina Ekholm Fry - Denver University

Rupert Isaacson: Welcome
to Equine Assisted World.

I'm your host, Rupert Isaacson.

New York Times bestselling
author of the Horse Boy.

Founder of New Trails Learning
Systems and long ride home.com.

You can find details of all our programs
and shows on Rupert isaacson.com.

Here on Equine Assisted World.

We look at the cutting edge and the best
practices currently being developed and,

established in the equine assisted field.

This can be psychological, this
can be neuropsych, this can be

physical, this can be all of the
conditions that human beings have.

These lovely equines, these beautiful
horses that we work with, help us with.

Thank you for being part of the adventure
and we hope you enjoy today's show

Welcome back to Equine Assisted
World where we look at people

who are at the cutting edge of
this rapidly expanding field.

Today, I've got someone exciting.

We know we always have someone exciting.

So this person's no less exciting.

She's actually extremely exciting.

Her name is Nina Ekholm Frey.

Some of you will already know
her from the work she's done

at the University of Colorado.

Rather pioneering work she
can let her tell us about.

Some of you may also know her
from the organization Hetty.

And if you don't know what Hetty
is, you will after this podcast.

And but she has a much more interesting
background than just equine assisted work

and the study of it and human and animal
communication, connectivity relationship.

So without further ado welcome on, Nina.

And who are you exactly?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Hi there.

Super great to be here.

Who am I?

I'm Swedish speaking Finn who's known
you, Rupert, for quite some time.

Thank you.

That's that's where I wanna start.

But as you said, some folks
may be familiar, maybe not.

I work at University of Denver here
in Colorado in the US of a, but,

again, I'm from Europe originally.

And at University of Denver, we
have an institute for human animal

connection where we do research as
well as professional development when

it comes to people's interests in in
interactions with all kinds of animals.

But I work a lot with horses.

And that's also, of course, how me and
and Rupert and everyone over at Horse

Boy 2 how we got to know each other.

So I think I'll I'll I'll
kind of start there with my

Rupert Isaacson: with my Well, let's
let's just rewind a little bit.

Of course, yes.

You and I are old mates.

However, most people listening
are not familiar with that crucial

piece of background that you
gave, a Swedish speaking Finn.

Tell us about that.

Tell us about that culture
and how that culture has maybe

informed your career path.

Is is it something very
specific within Europe?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

So, yeah, Swedish speaking Finns or
if we're using a Swedish speaking

Finn word mean it simply means that in
Finland, we have 2 official languages,

and there's a minority, a language and
ethnic minority who lives in Finland who

speak Swedish as their first language
and also have sort of a specific

cultural identity as part of Finland.

And it's it's a very good question you
ask about how it's influenced me or kind

of impacted me because when you grow
up obviously, I'm a or I shouldn't say

obviously, but I am a black white person.

I'm a white woman from Northern
Europe, and the Swedish speaking

Finns are predominantly white.

But there's still a minority
within Finland, a white minority.

And so growing up in a minority status,
But I grew up in a what's called

a majority minority area, simply
meaning that in my village and in my

county, we were predominantly Finland
Svenskaar or Swedish speaking Finns.

So my immediate experience and my village
was about, you know, 200 people or so.

My immediate experience
was really connected to my

ethnic and language identity.

But the but the larger sort of area of
I'm from the West Coast of Finland, It

was a it was a particular experience to
start noticing things like identities and

power and and differences like that even
early on, even before venturing out into

Europe, before venturing out into the rest
of the world and other continents, and

then eventually ending up here in the US.

Rupert Isaacson: So, um, this minority
experience I know from your previous

to being an academic life, led you into
some interesting human rights work.

Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

I mean, I I think in some ways, it
is a human rights work to become

a mental health practitioner, to
become a psychologist, to become

interested in in the human mind.

And so I wouldn't say other than my
my overall experience of understanding

power and privilege in a much deeper
way than I did initially when I grew up.

I didn't have parents or
context where people were quite

aware of equity and inequity.

But I started seeing it, and I saw
it actually very early on in my

village when a Finnish Roma family
wanted to visit 1 of the stables,

but they weren't truly welcome.

But because of my status in the
village and because of my whiteness and

because of my knowing this very small
village, I was able to escort them.

I was able to assume or use, wield, you
know, my privilege to help them access,

you know, what they were interested in
visiting horses because horses are part

of of of the Finnish Roma culture as well.

So those were some early things, you know,
around around my interest in in in, yeah,

areas of privilege and power and equity,
which after moving to the US became quite

a quite a lived experience, you know, as
an immigrant, as a as a woman and very fem

presenting woman living in a in a whole
new place, in a more multicultural place

than the fairly monocultural homogeneous
experience I had growing up, but being

a minority population, but still.

So I think some of my interest
later on as well in thinking of

just horses and humans and working
now in a school of social work.

The these things have really informed
me in speaking more on or being more

interested in things like power.

Rupert Isaacson: So before you came
over to the USA you pursued, obviously,

your early career there in Finland.

What did you do between leaving school?

Obviously, you're a horsey girl.

You're living in this very beautiful,
very nature rich part of the world.

But then what what do you do where
where do you go for your working life?

Do you go to the city?

What happens?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yes.

So I started actually at
the very end of my degree.

Again, I'm a psychologist
working for the Red Cross.

So I worked for it's called
the Western District Red Cross.

So not as a volunteer, but as a but as
a staff member and engaged mostly in

crisis work within the country of Finland.

So this wasn't international
international crisis work.

We did we did have 2 unfortunate
school shootings, which is very, very

unusual for Finland, but both happened
during my tenure with the Red Cross.

1 of them in our neighboring district,
which meant that we went there.

Our our staff went there.

So I worked for the Red Cross for a while.

They're overlapping kind
of toward my graduation.

I also worked for a couple of
organizations for mental health, so

related to mental health in general, but
I also work for organizations specific

to folks who are autistic and folks with
ADHD, which started kind of, another

connection point that we have here Rupert.

But but those were some of my early
sort of mental health related work.

And then eventually, I ended up
back at my alma mater, the old

university where I had graduated from.

So it was there that I was working still
pretty early career in my twenties when

all of a sudden, there was a a note or
I can't did I get an email about this?

Some somehow somebody said, hey.

They're looking for a faculty member, an
associate professor position in America

in at Prescott College in Arizona.

You know, applying for that even
though I quite liked the the

position I had at my old university.

But that really started that's when
things really started rolling, let's say.

Rupert Isaacson: So you you applied for
this job sort of out of the blue partly

from a sense of adventure, I I presume.

You get the job.

That seems, by itself
somewhat of a tall order.

There must have been, you know, loads
of people applying for that job.

Yet you get it.

And you come to America fresh
off the boat, land in the desert.

What do you come there to do
at the University of Prescott?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

So and the the position itself, the reason
why I sought it was, again, not because

I was unhappy where I was necessarily,
but because at the time, this is sadly

not the case any longer, but at the
time, Prescott College was well, it

was I mean, I guess it's still known as
this, but it was known as having some

early, at least experiential learning
things with horses kind of Right.

An innovative in institution that
was born out of some sort of Harvard

Business School experiment about the
school of the future, and and they

were again, founded in the sixties,
so not a very old institution.

But the reason why I applied for
that job was because they were asking

for somebody to come and develop
a concentration for the masters of

counseling students in in the inclusion
of horses in mental health, so that the

the counseling students who are getting
their masters and to become licensed

mental health counselors would then be
able to study or add this concentration.

They already had art therapy and So
that's really what I what I applied for.

That's that's what took me away, so to
speak, from from where I was working at

the time, and I had I had traveled, and
I had lived in a couple of different

places also earlier on, but but that's
what I came to do to to to formalize

some of the activities in the past
few years there at Prescott College.



Rupert Isaacson: And then you arrive not
knowing much about the USA except just

looking at it from the outside, and you
dive right into the college system there.

And and, also, Prescott is an
interesting town because it's

there in the Arizona desert.

It's those of you who who know
it, it's north of it's of Phoenix,

between Phoenix and Flagstaff.

It's sort of as you begin to go
up towards the higher country, and

it seems to be sort of equal parts
liberal college town, a little bit

like, say, Boulder or somewhere,
and equal parts Redneck Arizona.

And that must have been
quite a cultural jump.

How did you find it?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Certainly was.

And I had spent time in the US
prior, but only as a visitor.

You know?

So you can only get so
much of a sense of a place.

And I had been to the southwest,
you know, the similar landscape.

But something about the desert, which
is the opposite, you could say, opposite

climate of Finland in so many ways.

Finland's, you know, north and
humid, and we're talking desert here.

It burned into my soul, the
desert landscape, into my mind

and soul in a very profound way.

I just because I my my feeling was
very much I have left this position

that I had in Finland, which wasn't
you know, I did do pros and cons lists,

but it wasn't, you know, the most
terrifying thing necessarily I had done.

It was like, okay.

Well, if you are hiring me for this job,
then I surely will come kind of thing.

But but when I so when I arrived, I
knew I sort of had told myself, look.

You're gonna like this place.

And I had I had visited 1 time
after being accepted or accepted

after being employed, offered a
contract, and while I was waiting for

immigration status to be resolved.

So I had visited before once
before I actually moved there.

Physically, those 2
suitcases showed up there.

But and I knew I told myself, look.

You're gonna like it, you know,
because this is where this kinda

cool job is, and and you know,
why why wouldn't you like it?

And I just arrived into this small town.


It's north of Phoenix.

It's pretty small community.

It's pretty eclectic.


It's specific.

It has a very almost insular culture
to it due to the way that the mountains

rise because it's a mile high city.

So you're gonna drive up from Phoenix,
you rise about 3000 feet, and you

end up in this little it's not a
mountain town, but it's high desert.


And it feels very place based.

It feels very contained.

It was not it was completely
different, of course, than my village

and the city I grew up near, but it
was also not an urban metropolis.


It had very strong land connection.

That's how I felt when
I arrived, and I felt at

Rupert Isaacson: home.

And then what did you you you then began
to move towards the work that you're doing

now while you were there at Prescott.

You began to organize very interesting
events in congresses there.

Can you just tell us about the work
that you did there, and then that'll

be give us a way to jump into the
work you're doing now at Denver?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yes.


So, again, I arrived with a task to sort
of solidify what had happened there.

And I, of course, also arrived
with quest to know what is

happening here in the States.

I mean, at that time, yes, there were
emails and slow Internet browsers, but

it wasn't like now where you could just
get people on the on the phone, you

know, or or chat or message with people.

I had some contacts, but my main
quest was literally to see what is

going on here when they were talking
about horses, and we're talking about

therapy and especially psychotherapy.

So my my early years, I was
there for 5 years, were really,

really focused on networking.

We're really focused on
bringing people together.

As you mentioned, I organized some large
large events and, of course, running the

the concentration within the master's
program there for students bringing in

speakers, and and, you know, I've had
you there too for some of our both our

undergrad and our graduate students.

So I spent several years basically
trying to get to know as many people

as possible and as much about the
context of the United States and equine

interactions and therapies since I had
some of that coming from from Europe.

But here, we had a
completely new landscape.

And I could also add, I also spent some
earnest time trying to understand what

these, you know, natural horsemanship
dudes in the west were talking about.

I had some experience, you know, of
course, being classically trained,

classical equitation in Europe.

But I I gave it a really good shot when
they were running horses around and around

pens, and they were doing stuff like that.

And I earnestly was like, I'm gonna
I'm gonna try to understand what you

all are talking about, but really
found that that a lot of it wasn't

science aligned or it wasn't for me.

So I did spend a lot of time in the
sort of on the horse side only as well.

Rupert Isaacson: And what had you
been involved in the equine assisted

work in Finland before you came Yes.

To the US.


Tell us about that and and and,
yeah, you're the background

Nina Ekholm Fry: there.


Both practically as in providing
services and including horses, but

also toward the end of my time there.

Again, again, I was then by then
into my mid twenties, I had started

to become nationally involved.

So I was a vice president of 1 of the
national organizations there, and we

were working on sort of a couple of
initiatives meaning that I've started

to do some of the work that I am doing
quite a bit now too, which is not only,

you know, boots on the ground kind of
experiences or practical experiences,

but also trying to, uh, positively
influence things like guidelines or

or larger systems where possible.

Rupert Isaacson: So the the work you
did when you were providing services

in Finland, was that sort of classic
therapeutic riding or adaptive riding?

Was that more the equine
assisted psychotherapy direction?

What how are you doing it?

What was the what was the
menu you were offering

Nina Ekholm Fry: there?


Not really adaptive riding.

I actually became an adaptive riding
instructor after I came to the US which

I, you know, made sure I kind of got
to understand what they're doing there.

I was familiar with that area.

It's called something else in
in Finland, but no the inclusion

of horses in human services.

So, both, you know, psychotherapy services
and also what we call more supportive

services was what I was doing there.

So with autistic kids, so families
with autistic family members, more so

what we'd call supportive services.

It's a little more like what I've also
had the opportunity to work with you

and New Trails about more that kind of
thing, but also and separate from that

with other clientele, you know, use
of psychotherapy as the treatment and

then the including of the horse Right.

In each path process.

So so it's a little bit of of of,
again, more learning, more supportive

service as well as health care service.


Rupert Isaacson: And then you
arrive, obviously, in this

academic role in Prescott.

Do you start also offering services there?

And, also, you say you you
start getting to know as many

people in the field as you can.

What are the main differences that
you found between the approaches the

Equinixis approaches in Europe to yeah.

What struck you?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.



And and and this is a topic that that
you and I also know quite a bit about.

When you come to a new country as
an immigrant, takes a while for

you to get certain permissions
to do certain kinds of work.

So, yes, when I first arrived, I I
didn't have the status to allow me

to do multiple to, you know, work
for multiple employers, basically,

or to even have my own business yet.


That took several years
before I was able to.

And when I was able to, I was then able
to provide psychotherapy primarily in

the residential treatment settings where
clients would come for typically longer

term treatment primarily co occurring
trauma and addiction or co occurring

trauma and there, also in in Arizona.

But much later on there also in
in Arizona, but much later on

than those initial years due to
due to immigration restrictions.

But the, yes, the differences were in
terms of you're asking the differences

between, you know, how the inclusion
of horses would look in Europe at

that time, which has also changed, you
know, a a bunch compared to the states.

I mean, I knew or I was aware already
while living in Europe that there were a

lot of these so called models and brands.

So very American, you know, ideas of
of like, oh, I'm gonna brand this and

call this something very specific.

So I was aware that that was
what was happening there.

And a lot of actually folks in
Europe were looking more to the US

specifically around psychotherapy.

You know, the use of equine movement in
physical therapy and occupational therapy,

speech therapy really originated in the
German speaking parts of of of Europe,

and that felt very solid as a and also,
you know, Finland was an early, early

also forerunner with the first training
in 19 89 mostly focused on, again,

physical therapists and what's called
ergotherapists or occupational therapists.

But the psychotherapy work, surely
there was there or there was definitely

some early stuff happening in the
eighties and nineties in in the

German speaking countries with the
inclusion of horses in psychiatry and

inclusion of horses in psychotherapy.

But there was definitely the sense that
the Americans are doing a lot in this.

Like, the Americans are
really pushing forward.

So that was, of course, something I
was particularly interested in, and it

was very much more when I was working
in in Northern Europe, very much more

common that a person was a physical
therapist, for instance, instead of

the few psychotherapists around who
included horses or or even dogs and

other animals in their in in their work.

So coming to the states, it also was
a matter of of just very I took a very

empirical approach to to starting to
see, okay, what what are you all doing

here, and what can I get trained in?

And I got trained in basically most things
that were available at that time and

really committed to understanding what the
thing was and then, you know, sometimes

arriving to this is not for me or this
you know, after getting familiar with a

number of things that were was going on,
you know, in the US and really dedicating

myself to understanding at first.

I did notice that there was quite
a quite a few things that weren't

for me or didn't seem aligned with
health care, specifically health

care in the way we might talk
about, you know, in health insurance

billable service or using a term like
psychotherapy to talk about treatment.


So I I made sure I got real
familiar at first and also

kept my relationships you know?

There's a few people who are doing who
who are running programs, and and Yeah.

We're all have similar interests.

So we're all, you know, colleagues.

Some really close friends too for sure.

Rupert Isaacson: Yes.

What what what of the methods
that you got trained in did

you find really spoke to you?

Nina Ekholm Fry: You know, I hate
to be so biased here, but I ran into

somebody named Rupert, and he was
talking about some horse boy stuff.

And I I just met him.




. But, honestly, that was learning
about so both, of course, the

inclusion of horses in the horse
boy , you know, new trail system here.

But, really, the the fundamentally
right approach or appropriate approach

to autism as a neurotype was honestly
what really really got me because we

weren't talking about horse's stuff.

Instead, this my experiences is was
we're centering an autistic experience.

We're centering understanding
each other as humans here.


Now we're thinking how do
we include horses into that?

And that was very
attractive, you know, to me.

And that was the way that I was
thinking about things already.


And and and so some of my, again,
in my early empirical investigation,

spent a lot of time also going back
and forth to Texas and and learning at

that time and and and learning more.

And that's really what what
what what got me, what I thought

this this makes sense to me.

Rupert Isaacson: You're
you're extremely kind.

And, obviously, with Horse Boy , we
we we try our best to keep it an

ever ever developing organism.

We still, obviously, as you know, go
for regular continuing education, really

mentorship from neuroscientists and and
indeed from autist autists themselves.

Apart from horse boy method, did you
find some other methods here in the US

that really spoke to you and said yes,
particularly on the psychotherapy end?

Was there were there some
things that really stood out?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

I think with, honestly, the other
trainings, which I either then I took

and became credentialed or I even
hosted workshops, it didn't seem like

they were using the same conceptual
frame that was still sort of in

infancy in my mind that I've later,
you know, sort of really helped bring

forth in my own work and and in Right.

Kind of medical national context when the
time was right for more clarifications

around terminology and concepts and things
like that just a few years ago here.

But I didn't find that the really a
kind of singular other approach that

sort of was so clearly anchored in
the understanding of, in this case, a

particular population, not to say that
this this your work is inherently tied

just to 1 kind of person or something
like that because it has so many aspects

to it that are useful for developing
minds and people and that kind of thing.

So it wasn't I I I think it was more like,
oh, this approach is an another approach.

You take parts from that or this
other approach was really leaning

into like, working with teams and
business executives, things like that.

And and I was like, oh, yeah.

I've done a lot of this experiential
learning stuff in the forest of

Finland here that I can recognize
some of these, you know, the the

same learning ideas, of course, the
same experiential learning theory.

And that makes sense too.

But they felt more like these are very
specific specifically directed things,

and they weren't necessarily separating
the equine interaction from Right.

It's provided.

And I think for me, that was always
really important or how I, again, a

little later started really more clearly
conceptualizing this in my own work.

Rupert Isaacson: So now let's go
to to the work you're doing now.

You you you've come out of the
University of you spent 5 years there.

You've gotten to know the
equine assisted scene.

You've you've, as you say,
you've you've explored horse boy.

You've explored some other methodologies.

You've taken ideas from
a number of places.

Your background, though, still remains,
you know, within the psychotherapy end.

But yet then you end up at Denver
University, and you end up at a really I

would say, it still is, and it certainly
was then, but it's it's remained, I

think, the really cutting edge program, I
think, within the USA on exploring what's

the value of human animal connection.

So how did you end up at Denver?

What was on your mind to go there to do?

And tell us about the work you've
developed since you got there.

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yes.


So I I had did not necessarily have a a
a clear plan of leaving this this very

compelling desert community in Arizona.

I quite you know, by then, I'd gotten
myself some a better immigration status.

I had my horses who who are, you
know, some of which are who are

still alive, and they live now
here in 1 state over in Colorado.


It was it's actually a a colleague
of mine who so graciously said, hey.

I'd like you to come work
at University of Denver.

I'd like you to come to the Institute
for Human Animal Connection.

I'd like you to lead our equine efforts
because the institute had been in existent

existence for years, but it's sort of
just been 1 faculty member and then

initially a part time staff position.

It had been kinda small.

And right around that time, 20 14,
20 15, there was a concerted effort

to actually build the institute up.

And there was several of us, including
the then director of research who's now

the current executive director of the
institute and myself and, again, some

other folks started at the same time.

It was very exciting time because it was
possible to not only build on existing

work that had been going on at a smaller
scale at the institute, but now really

take both the research side as well as the
professional development or the sort of

education side of that institute forward.

So I got also had the opportunity to
shape my role a little bit and wanted

to make sure that it included both
therapeutic human animal interactions

as well as the experiences of horses
in communities, meaning things like

equine behavior, equine welfare, but
really anchored in more of a social

science lens as opposed to a veterinary
medicine lens or or or things like

Rupert Isaacson: that.

So when people think about you know, a
university beginning to put its attention

on this kind of thing which I think for
a lot of people is still a surprise.

I think I think a lot of people, even
in our field, are still perhaps unaware

that you have your institute at Denver
University, and now there's other academic

institutions beginning to follow suit.

I think a lot of us spent so long sort
of out in the wilderness that we we

it it it comes as a bit of a shock
to us to think, oh, universities are

actually interested in what we do.

But there you are, of course, beginning
to to run these well well, it's it's

for you to tell us what you were doing.

We we always picture, we
layman, we non academics, what

do they do at universities.

They either teach or they run research.


What I presume you be with the
institute began doing both.

Tell us about the research and tell
us about the t the vocational end.

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yes.


So at University of Denver,
I'm a a faculty member in the

Graduate School of Social Work.

This is also where the institute sits.

Even though, again I'm not a a
social worker by training, this

is typically a US profession.

You know?

When we talk about social work, this
this this social work in Europe has

different flavors, let's say, depending
on the country, and it's a different

kind of it's a different professional
area than the core, what's known as

the kind of US social work profession.

I emphasize this again because you
know, our executive director is a

molecular biologist by training who

Rupert Isaacson: Tell us
who who is your executive

Nina Ekholm Fry: director?

Doctor Kevin Morris is his name who
you've who you've also met at times.



Rupert Isaacson: had He he's an
intriguing intriguing figure.

Perhaps a little bit further on,
you'll give us a bit of background

on him because I think I think that
would be useful for our our listeners.

But okay.

So you you you I you're there.

You're beginning to run studies?

You're beginning to research

Nina Ekholm Fry: the field?


So so, again, at the at the institute,
we have a a a research side to it,

so to speak, where we can process and
manage grants and research processes.

And we also do professional development
and education and sort of, like,

implementation science, basically.

Like like, it's not just research
because research tends to occur in quite

narrow areas depending on its funding.

But so our institute, I feel, is
very unique also in that we we bring

research to practice or we we spread
the word about what's happening.

So my roles currently on the on the
faculty side within the graduate school I

lead an area of social work study, which
is also very unique called human animal

environment interactions in social work.

And the fact that we've taught these
courses about the importance and

impact of human animal interactions
at University of Denver since 19 96.

There was 1 little course, and now, you
know, it it's really been DU or University

of Denver has been a forerunner thanks to
people like Philip Tedeschi and others who

really said, I wanna teach about humans
and animals with a social work lens.

And now I'm in the position where
I'm, again, overseeing this year

specialization for people to formally
study this in social work but to

understand the importance and impact
of these relationships also in clinical

work, but also in a number of settings
like, you know, pet ownerships,

companion animals other health benefits
of just being connected to nature.

That's been a really a gift for University
of Denver to be also supporting other

social work schools in in really
daring to talk loudly about, you know,

human animal environment interactions.

So that's part of my work.

And then my other part is at the
institute, which I can talk more about

too, but I wanted to sort of highlight
the the unique academic content that's

also happening that more and more
institutions are starting to dare have

courses on human animal interactions.

Rupert Isaacson: And so if you're
doing that at a social a school of

social work, does that mean that
these are student social workers?

And, basically, what they're being taught
is the value of doing the work they're

gonna do professionally with, say, therapy
dogs, therapy horses, or outside in nature

to get a better outcome for their clients
and encouraging them to go animal based,

nature based in their own practices.

Is is is that sort of

Nina Ekholm Fry: the idea?


Part of it.

Because not every social work student
so they are social work students.

I also teach in the graduate
school of professional psychology.

So I teach some of the doctoral
students about interventions that

include animal interactions, and
that's more squarely clinical.


The social work students, the majority
of them honestly are clinically

focused, and that's pretty typical.

You know, we have a clinical license
for social workers, etcetera.

But social workers also
work on policy levels.

They also work in what we call
meso areas, meaning they might not

work directly with 1 to 1 service.

They might prefer to work
with systems instead.

They might prefer to work with
policies or promote I see.

The understanding, yeah, of,
again, the impact and importance

of these relationships.

If you're seeking a safe place to be
because of intimate partner violence,

you're not gonna go to that shelter
if it means you have to leave your

dog behind in your house or give them
up for adoption, a family member.

You can choose between being
not beaten up every day or leave

your dog there to be beaten up.

That's not a choice that
people, you know, make.

And but but others may
not understand this.


Others may say, oh, of course,
you're gonna dump the dog.



Humans first.

But that's not how the human species works
necessarily with the importance importance

of our interspecies connections.

And that's really how we live,
you know, and have been living.

So it's it's understanding
those kinds of things.

Oh, why why are we seeing people who
are killed by their intimate partners?

Well, they might have
barriers to seeking safety.

Well, 1 of them might be that we're
not understanding the importance

and impact of their animal
relationships completely or fully.

So those are that's 1 of a a ton
of examples that relate to, again,

these these human animal environment
interactions also outside of

clinical work, but very much so also
including animals in nature into

the therapy process like you said.


Rupert Isaacson: would you hope that
some of these students that then go

on to have careers in, as you say,
in the systems, in the admin, end up

working in local health authorities or
or even national health authorities.

And then 1 would hope that what they've
learned and what they've been taught

and as a knock on effect that as they
become policymakers, they include animal

assisted stuff in government funded or
insurance company funded treatments.

So looking into


Nina Ekholm Fry: And yeah.

And it's really also understanding.


Like, currently, you you can include
interactions with dogs and cats, horses,

guinea pigs, rats in psychotherapy without
restriction and getting reimbursed.


You can't do you can't do things
like animal therapy or dog therapy

or horse therapy because that's not
a therapy in the health care system.

Enhance that.

And that's a billable service because the
animal does not constitute treatment or a

modality or a strategy or an intervention.

And this is something that then, you
know, these graduate students who

are really advanced learners in this
area, you know, gain knowledge about.

And then just like you said, some
of them may be working clinically,

but others may work in systems.

And they may be setting policies for the
schools, which happens quite a lot, the

school district, to promote more animal
and nature access in public schools, for

Rupert Isaacson: instance.



So you're really paying it forward.

I mean, you're what you're doing there
at DU is really training up the next

generation of policymakers to place
value on nature and animals at the

institutional slash school slash billable
clinical level, and that maybe we might

be looking at a better picture of that
in 15 years because these people have

now gone on to somewhat senior positions
having gone through your program.

That's great.


Nina Ekholm Fry: And and in many ways,
all all education and training, we also

have our postmasters training program,
which is not tied to an academic degree.

It's a postmasters training, meaning
you have a master's or doctoral

already and you you're you're
taught to to include interactions

with horses into psychotherapy.

That's 1 of our professional
development offerings.

But I think that any any of these
trainings, right, that we anytime

we educate, it is a pay it forward
because it is sort of helping others

gain the knowledge and apply it.

But you're right that we we do we might
really do have a very specific sort of

intention as well around social good
and social justice where we really

emphasize that people who are graduating,
whether from master's and and and

and teach others, go forth and and
learn learn more together with others.

This is not a question of
competitions or who who has the

best, you know, training program.

It's it's really about the recognition,
like you said, or the importance of

human animal interactions in a variety of

Rupert Isaacson: ways.

Are you looking are you seeing
now other universities following

suit from what DU has pioneered?

Are are you seeing similar types
of programs springing up across the

Nina Ekholm Fry: US now?


I mean, I I spend a fair bit of
time chatting with, consulting with,

you know, with colleagues in in
various especially in social work,

in various social work schools.

But I also you know, me and my
actually former grad student, we

just had another paper come out just
last week, in fact, that maps the

academic coursework that includes
equine interactions in human services.

Meaning, any courses that are
at universities and colleges

that teach either things like
adaptive or therapeutic writing.

That's the same thing.

You know?

That's more of a writing school
course industry activity.

But there's quite a lot of undergraduate
institutions that have coursework

specific that students can take,
especially within equine, you

know, science or equine studies.

And it includes things like learning
services, so education, that kind of thing

where people teach a course how to include
the horse and, of course, in therapy,

whether that's psychotherapy whether
that's occupational or physical or speech

therapy, and also which institutions
have survey or overview courses.

So we just the this study just came
out, like I said, last week, mapping

the this, and we did a comparison
because we did a replication of our

study that came out 5 years ago.

And we saw an increase in courses,
an increase in institutions offering

these coursework institute you
know, increase in departments.

So there's definitely, not just in my
own personal kind of perception, but

also, you know, using data and increase
in interest in academic institutions

when it comes to these things.

This is the way of the

Rupert Isaacson: future.

Well, that's wonderful because, I
mean, that can only mean that, yeah,

professionals of the future are
gonna come out of these programs.

And as you say, that's that's
got to be a tide that will

lift all boats a much needed 1.

You you are now also
working outside of DU.

I know that you've got you know,
you you you are very influential

and active in the sort of wider
world of equine assisted stuff.

You're sitting on boards.

You're you're helping to get the field
sort of moving forward and evolving.

Which which boards and so on are
you currently sitting on, and which

organizations are you would you like us
to know about that are doing work that

you feel we should all be aware of?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yes.


So currently I sit on the American
Hippotherapy Association board.

This is an organization that supports
licensed physical therapists,

occupational therapists, and speech
language pathologists in the use of

equine movement as a therapy tool.

And not the horse, but the equine
movement in health care in the

US on in these professions is
described as a therapy tool, the

movement that the horse provides.

So I sit on this board.

This is actually my sixth and final year.

I've I've served on this board for quite a
while, sometimes as the only mental health

professional amongst my colleagues and
it's been a a really rewarding experience.

I also currently, I'm trying to
think of larger larger things.

I sit on an advisory board for the
state of Massachusetts that I'm really

excited about because it's about
promoting green care, and it's about

allocating funds to providers in the
state who are serving adolescents and

young adults who have some sort of
connection to substance use challenges.

But it's finding ways of engaging
people with green arenas or green

spaces in in in their service provision,
which is typically psychotherapy,

but there's also other ways that
these this population can be served

under these state monies that exist.

So the advisory board role is to
allocate the money and also to advise,

you know, the the the recipients of
the money the grantees in that state.

So those are a couple of of larger things
that happened to not be specifically

about equine interaction, but I
also, you know, work with other other

contexts or other other things as well.

Rupert Isaacson: Well, I think you
made a very good point earlier, which

is that the interaction with horses
and animals in general is part of

the general interaction with nature.


1 1 1 can't you know, 1 tends the nature
tends to get used to mean interactions

with natural landscapes as something
rather separate from animals, but I'm a

great believer that it's all the same.

And to separate 1 from the
other is asinine but it's

understandable why people do it.

So it it's exciting to me that you
are making a point of drawing that

connection on on on an academic
and an organizational level.

What what draws you to what
drew you to the Hippotherapy

Association in particular?

What was what is it about that
that approach that speaks to you?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

I would and I also wanna make sure I
I mentioned a couple of organizations

that I think there's been some really
exciting or interesting stuff happening

with human horse interactions.

But, yeah, the American Hippotherapy
Association or Again, the word

hypotherapist is a little tricky.

You can just say equine movement.

It means the same thing.

But I was originally asked to
join that board because of my

work on the mental health side.


So this organization has been
a long standing organization,

very typically organized, you
know, for licensed providers.

So I I've just enjoyed the exchange with
my colleagues since I'd at at the time,

I was still serving as the, I think,
the the chair of a credentialing board

called the CBEIP or the certification
board for equine interaction

professionals, which credential mental
health professionals voluntarily.

You know, this is a
voluntary national thing.

Mental health professionals as
well as learning professionals.

And I think it was through that connection
as well because there's a separate

credentialing board, similar 1 for OTs and
PTs, occupational and physical therapists.

So I think it was I was asked to
join or or, you know, to talk more.

What's happening on
the mental health side?

What's what's going on there?

Because Mhmm.

Unfortunately, there's not there's not
a singular organization similar to that

exists for those who provide psychotherapy
and who are licensed or licensable,

which is a very specific way of looking
at, you know, therapy and treatment.


So that's how I that's how I
ended up there, and it's been 6 6

short years in a major pandemic.

And I know it's been it's been a lovely,
lovely time, and it's really also made

me really connected to my colleagues
who have different professions than me

but are still health care providers.


Rupert Isaacson: yeah.


But I want Yeah.

So you mentioned that you wanted to draw
our attention to a couple of other things.


Nina Ekholm Fry: Yes.

Since you since you mentioned this,
you mentioned in the very beginning

HETI, horses in education therapy
international, and I'd just a couple of

years ago finished tenure as a journal
editor for them that I was for 10 years.

And so they've been a and I'm,
you know, still connected to them.

They're sort of the international
horse specific organization for for,

again, horses in therapy and education.

A similar organization, but for sort of
all human animal interactions is called

I Ohio, the International Association for
Human Animal Interaction Organizations.

And IOHIO is I've been connected with them
for years too, but I wanted to highlight

that there was a really good equine wealth
fair and training and handling guidelines

that came out of I Ohio and are freely
available you know, for people to to find.

I had a pleasure to be part of it,
the international work group that

created those guidelines and a couple
of other things related to horses.

But I think if I look back at the last
few years of, you know, doing this kind

of especially international work, which
is very difficult to do because we are

now talking about different countries,
different cultures, different ways of

thinking that don't have to be the same.

You know?

But those equine guidelines, I'm really,
really proud of them how they turned

out and, you know, the group that
came together and their contribution

overall when we think about horses
in, you know, various human services

including adapt you know, and think
about adaptive or therapeutic riding,

these guidelines were meant to be
applicable for all these various areas.

And I and I and I thought
that that was such neat work.

So I wanted to highlight that as as,
you know, another reason for that.

Rupert Isaacson: Specific
about those guidelines.

What so tell us about
them in a bit more detail.

What do they say?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

So they their guidelines for there's sort
of 2 areas called care and welfare, and

the other area is training and handling.


And what I really appreciated about I
Ohio's approach specifically is that

there's quite a lot of these welfare
guidelines or ethics guidelines.

They can be quite aspirational.

They can be quite thin.

There might be a couple of sentences,
you know, do no harm and, you know,

let's be good to horses or something
like that, but they don't necessarily

provide more detailed guidance.

It just depends on how a
problem is can conceptualize.

Sometimes we want more bigger principles.


But this the the organization supported
the direction of our work group to take

a braver stance to be clearer and more
detailed, which is, again, difficult

internationally about that we, yeah,
that we need to use science based

approaches of understanding horses.

We need to think further than our own
nose, as we say in Swedish, meaning, you

know, sometimes if we stop thinking, we
haven't gotten very far, barely off of our

own face here and not even thinking about
the welfare of horses, another species.

So the the guidelines are
quite they're detailed.

They're clear in their recognition
of horses as also vulnerable

participants in these services, and
they give, you know, clear guidance.


Horses need to have fiber.

They need to be with other horses.

They can't just stand inside
in extreme confinement all day,

and we just call that good.


So those are some of the the
the the spirit of the guidelines

really push things forward.

And I even have been asked to
give a talk at a at a conference.

I gave this was it last year?


Still this year.

Even about the development of
the guidelines because it was

so unusual to be able to move.

Maybe they're a couple of
steps ahead, but I don't mind.

You know?

We'll catch up.


Rupert Isaacson: know?

Do you have you found that
those guidelines have been

instituted and followed?

Have you been able to trace
that in certain areas?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

I mean, not formally because there's
not a mechanism to say, like, okay.

This country does this.

But I've had colleagues translate
them into different languages, and

some have asked me to eye through
them to see if they retain, you

know, their original thought.

But, again, English is my third language,
so just we're all just trying here.

And I've definitely had people
contact me to ask a clarifying

question or, you know, like, they're
they're not just sitting somewhere.


Rupert Isaacson: people
appear to be reacting to them.


Because, yeah, I I as you know, we we
work internationally with horse sport.

And when I'm going into new
countries, sometimes it's like,

it's gonna be tricky here.


The level of horse care is
not what we'd wanna see.


And then the question is
always, but could it get there?

And, you know, if you're if you're
1 organization working alone, the

answer is, well, maybe, but it
it would be down to an individual

stable deciding to up up its game.

But I what I really like about
what you're doing with I Ohio is it

encourages a bit more of a systematic
and institutional change and perhaps

some of the equine assisted national
bodies also beginning to look at this

more and have that trickle down effect.

Because it's true that, you know,
when we're in the US or when we're in

Europe, we often, to some degree, take
for granted the good horse welfare.

But even there, we can get
some nasty surprises sometimes.

But, yeah when you go outside,
it it it's anybody's guess.

You know, it it it's that thing of of
particularly when 1 goes to countries

where the horse is not necessarily
part of the traditional culture.

That it's something that
may have been brought in.

So with with the work that you're
doing academically, let's bring

it back to the university at DU,
where are you hoping to take it?

What's your what's your ambition?

What are you what what are your plans?



Nina Ekholm Fry: mean, I feel so
fortunate that I'm I'm where I

wanna be in terms of the space to
do the work that's of interest to

me the ability to just think, okay.

What what do I wanna do?

Do we wanna do more big events?

Is that really where we
wanna, you know, sit?

Does another organization
do that better or as well?

And this is what we've found, for
instance, in our collaboration with

Green Chimneys in New York and that
we're we're now, you know, collaborating

on big practitioner conference events.


And, you know, so for me, my the
trajectory right now in the leadership

team at the institute is really about
where can we and I be most effective.

We just launched a new equine behavior
course, which is completely online,

you know, with videos and things
like that to just see, like, where

are people accessing information?

How can I, you know, work, which is my
internal drive, you know, for a more just

world, for people, for horses, for, again,
people with different identities that

might disadvantage it them in the eyes
of others, you know, like disabilities

or being neurodivergent or being a
woman or, you know, these things that

are categorical instead of individual?

You know, I I I think then a lot, like
I said, right now, because I have some

some ability to make things happen more
and more without having to lift the whole

thing myself, you know, which which is not
unusual in early early career, of course.

But but to really think, where
can we and I be most effective?

Where can we make the most impact
with these messages again about

about justness and about equity?

Rupert Isaacson: And where is that?

Where where I where do you feel
you can make the most impact

in the in the next short term?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

So far, of course, it is a lot of
people access things more easily online.


So, you know, being able to offer
offer access to our, you know,

research, access to learning.

But at the same time, interestingly
enough, the postmasters program that I

lead, we require 3 in person trainings
in a or, like, it it's a limited

residency 10 month training program.

It's an advanced program.

It's long.

It's not and, you know, that perhaps
sells faster, let's say, if you're

doing a shorter thing over a weekend.

But here, instead of reducing the in
person training, we we are we are staying

with 3, 4 day trainings across 10 months,
which is quite a lot of in person activity

and might be, again, more profitable,
let's say, to run it differently.

But there, I'm finding that the
impact, the the return on investment

for the participants is so so much
higher when they are actually training

hands on in a very defined culture.

So it's not a drop in drop out,
which also increases access,

but I'm sort of modeling that.

You know, I'm thinking both about how
does this look when it is more online

or accessible, but also how does it
look when you're really doing a very

specifically kind of specific culture
of learning in advanced training.

And we've really, you know, found
great success with the postmasters

program to the point where we're
full, you know, we're full constantly.

Rupert Isaacson: Wow.

And in terms of and not.



I was mixing it up with the
Lusitano and Spanish shorts I

I that I'd like to show for.

I was like, Ohio and and Hetty,
where where are you hopeful that

the work with these international
equine assisted bodies is going?

What would you like to see?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Again,
international work is so tricky.

I was just supporting my colleagues
at HETI about this about another

international project that I'm that I'm
not a part of, but I was lending lending

my input when when invited to do so.

And I think that the movements
internationally, there's a balance

between this idea that there's just
1 right way that I, you know, I can

work more intensively with that within
a specific culture or in this case

within a specific health care system.

I know how the US health care system
works, and I know how this how

how to best go forward with that.

So there in those context, I'm very much
you know, able to be very specific, which

an international organization might not
be, not with those kinds of details.

But what I'd like to see internationally
when where you can't really advise people

within their own health care systems,
you have to know how that how it works

and and how what words are being used
and how to what's acceptable welfare.

Like, what is acceptable here?

Because it becomes a social license
to operate more so than actual

governmental licenses and things like
that in most cases, especially in

the US, where it's more about, hey.

This is how we're doing this thing.

Do you wanna be part of this?

This is how we're modeling.

This is how we appear.

This is how, you know, as a group, as an
area what we accept and we don't accept.

And I feel like we're getting
closer to things like not

accepting 24 hour confinement,
extreme confinement, specifically.

And then, you know, 1 hour you get to
do a therapy session with if you're a

horse, you know, you get to come out
of this stall and do this 1 thing,

and then you get to call back in.

I think it's it's the idea isn't
to create barriers for access.

The idea is to remove the the the physical
structure in a lot of cases, but to

rethink the design and what's allowable
for horses and and what we accept for

horses because it doesn't necessarily
mean we have to have bigger places outside

of the city and only some access them.

Sometimes it means we just
have to redesign and rethink

what we already have here.

Rupert Isaacson: Yeah.

I I agree.

It's very interesting.

The the project in Dublin, central Dublin
child vision, which, as you may know, is

a school for the visually impaired, but
it's right in the middle of the city.

And when it started, it has an
equine program, and we've been

involved there for some years.

And when we first became involved
there, they had quite a lot of

land and then it all got sold.

And they're down to the stable yard, an
arena, 1 very, very small turnout paddock,

and a rugby field that they have to share
with the local school with around which

they have a sensory trail and then the
be you know, a bit of another trail.

And the people who are running the
equine program there, Terry Brosnan,

who was a guest on on on this podcast,
and Lucy Dillon, who I hope to get on.

They've been incredibly inventive about
how to make sure that the horses get

their outside time, get their crazy
time being free jumped as in groups

in the arena, in herds that they get
to go out and be hand walked and hand

grazed and that they built this in as
part of the therapy so that they're

not having a conflict of time between,
well, I've got to see all the serve all

these clients, but how am I gonna get
time to train or or serve the horses?

But it's it's built into the client time.

And then, of course, they're rotated
out of the city every week or 2 as

well, so they're just allowed to
go into a field and just live out.

And they've been very
proactive about this.

But as you yeah.

As you know, it's it's
it's not always the case.

Well, what are you what are you the most
excited about in terms of because you get

to look at a lot of different programs.

What are you excited about in
the sort of general way the

equine assisted world is going?

And are there some programs out there
that you feel that we should be aware

of that are more recent that we feel
you feel we should be taking a look at?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

And I can mention having worked with
Child Wish Vision a bit too and and

knowing Terry Brosnan really well.


So I've been aware of what you all
are doing, of course there that it's

I I just wanna highlight them also
as an example of very restricted,

like you said, like, space Yeah.

And serving folks in a very
central location and really, really

feeling out that balance of, you
know, is this is this sufficient?

Can we do it this way?

Should we do it this way with
what we have given the the

changes that they experienced?

But the I think the the key thing that
some folks lack is the right attitude.

And ChildVision has that right
attitude, meaning they are willing

to examine every part of their
equine living environment and their

prostheses and then try to see, okay.

We're gonna do this to the max here with
what we have and then, you know, assess

that in a really sort of honest way.

And that quality I think when I think
about sort of programs and people

and things like that, I think mostly
about when I encounter that quality.

And and I I consult for a foundation
here in Southern Colorado called

Flying Horse Foundation, and
they're very similar like that.

You know, the attitude is
there, meaning we can solve the

other stuff in various ways.

But we can't solve an attitude that's
not willing to be willing to examine

really the truth about our relationships
with horses, which is we do, you know,

we do what we want, and we kinda want
them to be okay too, but we cannot

we can't sort of delude ourselves
about the power difference between us.

So that's, I guess, what I would be
most excited about also internationally

given that people think about equine
interactions in so many ways, it

would be to continue cultivating an
attitude, An attitude that I actually

also have seen saw quite a bit in
my early work with you all in Texas.


The this attitude of, like,
if the attitude's right, we

can solve this other stuff.


But we can't without a creative mind.

We can't without some resources, but the
point isn't to have unlimited resources.


The point is to to be able to
really work with what you have.

And that's what I do when I do facility
design consultation for I get to do this

with, you know, also equestrian facilities
outside of human horse interactions.

That's what gets me excited.

That's what I wanna help
cultivate in people.

And I try to model it, of course,
in myself, but I'm that's maybe

where I wanna has to go as an area.

You know?

Rupert Isaacson: So how can listeners
learn more, get involved, and,

also, how can they help how can
they become part of that mission

for example, with Etienne, Ohio.

And so if someone is it it's a lot
of the people who are gonna be tuning

into this, they won't necessarily
be, you know, veterans of the field.

A lot of people a lot of them
are young people who are looking

to go into this as a profession.

And there's a kind of as you know now,
there's this kind of almost too big of a

smorgasbord of available ways to go in now
where it was very narrow a few years ago.

So, yeah, a, how how do people reach you,
and what involvement and participation

can they have in what you're doing and
what these organizations are doing?

And then from there, I'm gonna
ask you for some advice for some

people coming into the industry.

So so to start with, how do people
contact you, get involved, and

what kind of involvement would be
useful to the university and and

to these organizations to kind of
bring this whole field forward, do

Nina Ekholm Fry: you feel?



The main the main important involvement
is the person with themselves.

Like like, finding what you're
interested in and then modeling,

living through your values, which
can be hard if you don't have a

tribe or a or a context or community.


But they will they are
they are there out there.

You just have to try to find
which 1 is right for you.

But the most important valuable way of
starting to get involved is, of course,

to seek out knowledge, but then start
living living through it yourself.

You know?

So you're not just sort of passive
passively thinking about stuff, but

getting in there and finding opportunities
where you can try different things out.

When it comes to the university,
you know, we of course, mostly

work internally with our students.

You know?

We have formal formal processes because
we're a university that relates to them.

Even if you are, you know,
students at University of

Denver, they can be work studies.

They can be part of our research as
student researchers, things like that.

So we we do a lot of that training,
but it's internal to the university.

Seeking out some of our we we have
professional development courses and

things like that, but we also do,
like, you know, stream presentations

and and do other kind of, you
know, really accessible stuff.

So connecting with us as an institute,
either on our social media or

getting on our newsletter list.

You can, you know, be in be be see
what we're doing and where we wanna go.

Working with me you can contact me by
email, contact me on Facebook, you know,

tell me what you're interested in and
and see what I can do to connect you,

what I can do to sort of, create a a
community or show you communities that

where you can be effective because,
again, you can be effective in your

own right modeling, just being a
person who's interested in always being

curious and always finding new things.

But you can also then get involved
with some of the older older

organizations, so to speak, who may
benefit a bit from a little better

pace on the change if that makes sense.

So I encourage all everyone to get there's
typically committees and task forces.

This all involves volunteer work and that
might not be everybody might not have

those hours to spare you know, equitably.

But, you know, that's what we need.

We're we're we need it's such a big
change, like you said, from a few years

ago or a decade ago when there's just
a few people who got to say things.

And then those people had their student,
and they got to say the same thing.

And now, you know, we have access
to a much broader kind of spectrum

of of experiences here in this
area of human humans and horses.

So that's that's where
I would start there.

I think you had a follow-up a

Rupert Isaacson: follow-up question.


If if people are I'm I'm gonna get
those resources that you mentioned

in a few minutes so people will know
the the email will know the social

media and the websites and so on.

But what would be your advice for
young people going into this field now?

Because it's a it's a much broader field
than it was and they need to orient

themselves and find out perhaps where
they fit and what the opportunities are.

What's your advice?


Nina Ekholm Fry: I I think that
it's really useful to think about

human animal interactions in the
context also of your human interests,

especially if you wanna, again, provide
services where you include animals.

Meaning, you might be particularly
interested in the OCD community of

obsessive compulsive disorders, and
you you are knowledgeable and you're

an advocate in with this you know,
severe mental illness and the experience

of of OCD, and then you learn, hey.

What are the protective factors?

It could be animal relationships.

It could be getting treatment
outdoors instead of indoors.

Like, you're you I I encourage people to
sort of there there are some people whose

niche is more squarely on the animal side,
and they're assisting with understanding

the animals as part of human services.

But if you're at all interested in
interacting on the human side, really

becoming immersed and knowledgeable
about that human topic, whether

it's a specific area of learning
or or or or support services.


Or if you're interested in
what a lot of people, you know,

contact me and say horse therapy.

I I just wanna do horse therapy.

My question is always, do you
want to be a health care provider?

Because therapy is typically thought
of as as part of of health care.

Are you passionate about that?

Are you passionate about treatment?

You know?

If so, let's think about what kind of
license you wanna pursue and then think

about how can you include interactions
with horses to enhance this to really

help people have an even more enhanced
experience, you know, of their of their

psychotherapy work and influence some
of the colleagues to whom a client can't

even say they've lost their dog because
they're gonna say, oh, your dog died.


I thought your brother was ill.


And you care about 50 times more
about this dog than your brother.

Like, we have to sort of
change that kind of culture.

So and and the same can go in any area.

You might not be
interested in health care.

You might be interested in
other services that actually

suit some populations better.

And then be really good at that,
be really good at the context

you're in, and then understand
how those animal interactions fit.

Is again, I'm taking just 1 1 angle here.

There's many more It's

Rupert Isaacson: a good it's a very
good angle, though because I think what

you've touched on is that when people
are coming out of the horse community

wanting to go into, quote, unquote,
therapeutic riding, which is just the

term a lot of people would use in a very
general way without necessarily knowing

what that is or quite where they would
end up within the equine assisted field.

I think what you've touched on is that
a lot of people want to come into it

from a just well, I want to use horses.

I love horses, and I wanna use horses
to help people feel better, which is,

of course, a laudable and good thing.

But I think that often it's not
thought through much more than that.

And then if you put yourself in, say,
my position as an autism father, well,

I would like, in a perfect world,
the person who's interacting with my

autistic child to have a really, really,
really solid background in autism.

I also want them to have
the horse skills, of course.

But I want them to be taking that
deep and vocational interest in

the condition that my son has.

Otherwise, there's a bit of a
limit to what they can offer.

And so I think your point is is
actually very valid that if you're

horsey and you want to go into the
equine assisted world, you've probably

got some horse skills already.

And, of course, we can
always upscale ourselves.

There'll be a a small minority of
people that come in as absolute

rookies, but most people do it because
they're already involved in horses.

But I agree with you.

It's not enough.

I I think that without taking seriously
the vocational feel of trying to be

quite specific about the population or
populations that you wanna work with

because, of course, there's interplay
between them, is something that I think

isn't often thought through by people
when they're going into the industry.

And then what happens is they
can end up getting a bit lost.

Do you know of courses, training
programs, orientation programs, that

sort of thing that are being offered
by some of these larger organizations

that you're now involved with or other
institutions that some of these people

entering the industry could look
to to help themselves get oriented?


Nina Ekholm Fry: My my advice, and, of
course, it's gonna be a little biased,

is to check us out as an academic
institution because we have some trainings

for sure, but we are also not like
we also function as a knowledge hub.


Meaning, we're not needing
to sell our own stuff.

We have a university structure that helps,
you know, keep us also going and that

affords us that kind of a perspective,
right, where I can't you know, if I ran

my own own business, I wouldn't, you
know, miss an opportunity to promote it.

But it's it becomes a little
different when you get to be in

the in that this academic setting.

It kinda have some drawbacks too,
but but that's what I would say,

you know, people who are interested
in various ways that forces can be

included can on them their own think.

What kind of human service
do I wanna do like we said?

What do I wanna be really serious about,
really knowledge knowledgeable about,

really make sure I'm not missing the
mark here, being harmful unintentionally.


And then about including, you know, horses
there because you can include interactions

with animals so you can emphasize
them in just endless amounts of human

human services and human professions.

So that's where I would sort of
go because it depends on if people

wanna do adaptive writing lessons.

I would send them 1 way.

I have that credential as well.

If they wanna do another kind of
school based work and and really

just wanna get going on learning
about some of the curriculum

examples, I know where to send them.

So but I think the overall idea kinda
capturing this this idea that if you

think about it in that way, that the
human service exists and you include

the horse into that human service, it
really helps you stay clear on, I need

to be really good at both these things.



It's in both differences.

Rupert Isaacson: Yeah.


I couldn't agree more.

In some ways, it makes it 1 of
the most complex fields to go into

because then you've you've got the
whole human side and the condition

that you're looking to dress.

But then you've got the whole horse
training for that side, and then you got

the whole horse welfare side before you're
even looking at the organizational ups and

downs of of running programs and so on.

You know, it's it's really generous
of you to say that you can guide

people and people can email you.

I know there are gonna be
some people that will want to.

Can you give us an email
that we can give to people?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Absolutely.

I and I will make sure
I have it in writing.

It's gonna be my, you know, my should
I say it now, or should we put it

Rupert Isaacson: in writing?

Now, and I'll repeat it, and then I'll
I'll I'll get it for we'll we'll make sure

it's there as a as a link in the blurb.

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yes.

And we'll write it down.

And the good thing is because I have
3 names, if you put all those 3 names

1 after another in in your Internet
engine, you will most likely land on me.


Rupert Isaacson: make sure you
do any econ fries out there.

It's true.



Nina Ekholm Fry: I know.

It's the extra name.

You know?

It's sort of probability wise adds it.

So my email is my first name, n I n
a, and then there's a period, and then

there's my middle name, e k h o l m.

And then in my email, there's a
hyphen, but, otherwise, there is not.

F r y at

Rupert Isaacson: It it runs in,
yeah, aircon fry is just 1 word.


In this At is a

Nina Ekholm Fry: hyphen
hyphen between aircon Right?

But, really, in my name, there is not.

Go ahead.

Address, there was technological
restraints in how how how

you can write these 3 names.

So, yeah, first name, n I n a, period,
e k h o l m, hyphen, f r y at, d as in

Denver, u as in university, dot e d u.

And that's how you can find me directly.

You can also find this email, like I
said, by by searching for my name and

d and u, and you'll see the university,
and you'll see my faculty page as well.

So let

Rupert Isaacson: me read this back to you.

Nina, n I n a, dot e kholm, e k h o
l m, hyphen, f r y at d u dot e d u?



Got it.

And then give us a website that
people can go to to learn more about

the work at the university that
you're doing, the the institute.

Nina Ekholm Fry: So, Yes.

Easiest way to is to type in IHAC.

So it's an acronym for Institute
for Human Animal Connection.

So it's I h a c dot, d as in Denver,
u as in university, dot e d u.

So just put in I hack dot d u dot e
d u, and you'll find our institute.

Our institute's work where you'll
learn a lot more about our research

areas, a lot more about our our
events and professional development

and training, and also just how we
wanna implement or bring to practice

the knowledge that we also generate
through our through our our research.

Rupert Isaacson: I h
a c dot d u dot e d u.

Institute for Human and Animal
Connection at Denver University.

And there, they can also learn access
your online education stuff, the

events you do, the streaming events
that you do, and they can sort of join

that community and benefit from that.

That's if if someone this was
gonna be another question.

If if if people are running programs and
they want to find get oriented towards

finding studies that back up the work that
they're doing which, of course, is always

helpful when they're looking for funding.

Does iHAC can it help them with
that to find some some of the

studies that will support the
work, the equine assisted work?

Nina Ekholm Fry: Yeah.

We don't have a a public
repository, but others do.

And there's actually a big 1 run by
Fran Jurga who who's, you know, an

equine an equine assisted studies
repository where you can, you

know, search yourself, so to speak.


Because because our systems are you
know, our university libraries and

things are are are university specific,
which is 1 of the limitations,

sadly, of working in that system.


But that's how I would that's how I
would start the search and also knowing

that when you're looking for research
to support your proposals, your grant

applications, My my top tip is you're
gonna need to be creative because there's

research, but the research is as varied
as some of the experiences Rupert and

I have talked about where sometimes you
walk into a a a training place and you're

gonna run a course and you go, okay.

We have different thoughts
about about horses here.

And interestingly enough, because
the, you know, equine interactions

or horse interactions area is so
niche, sometimes and I've been, as I

mentioned, a journal editor myself,
but sometimes I think that people

just said, ah, you can publish that.

That's fine.

It sounds interesting.

And we sorta lost lost the plot
a little bit on on the rigor.

So that would be my also my top tip
that in all things, we must be creative.

There won't be a treasure trove of
research articles that are perfect.

You are still going to need to, you
know, sort of work on your work on your

case and not and not rely on on some
perhaps medium quality stuff that's out

Rupert Isaacson: there.

But you say there's there's someone
called Fran Jurgen who has put together

a repository of the of assisted studies?


Nina Ekholm Fry: has a huge repository
and I'm kinda now kinda blanking

on the exact name of its this

Rupert Isaacson: call.

She's j u r g a, isn't she?

Fran yoga?



Nina Ekholm Fry: With a j.


And she's based

Rupert Isaacson: up is she based up
in Massachusetts, I seem to think?


Nina Ekholm Fry: Perhaps.

I just I talked to Yeah.

I talked to her just, like,
a couple of months ago last,

but but, yeah, check it out.

I can't the the actual name escapes me,
but I it shouldn't be too hard to find.

That's something that
she's been working on.

And so been

Rupert Isaacson: a labor of love
for her to put that together

just to help advance the field?

Nina Ekholm Fry: I don't know.

We'll have to investigate more.

I only know that she's in touch
with me regularly to check-in about

publications and things like that.

So she's really you know, invested
in in sort of bringing things

together in an accessible place.

It's it's my experience, but we
we have to investigate further.

She might be an interesting guest too.


Rupert Isaacson: No.

She might well.

And, actually, I'm I'm
I'm looking her up now.

So if if if listeners want to type in her
name, Fran Jurga, j u r g a, you'll see

that she pops up that she's a researcher.

She also other types of veterinary, equine
science, hoof care, equine podiatry,

equestrian sport, veterinary medicine.

So it's it's she's quite broad.

And yeah, I can see the resources just so.

If you just just typing in her
name gets 1 to So I think it should

might actually be in Michigan.



Well, that's a good tip.

Well, listen.

It's been it's been great
to reconnect with you.

It always is.

And I'm just so impressed with how
you've just helped to advance the field.

And 1 thing which I've also really
appreciated, I think, You know, when I

first got involved in things that Equine
assisted, I didn't do it by choice.

As you know, I did it because my son
had this reaction to the horse, and

so I followed it and off we went.

But, of course, I found out very
quickly how factional and sometimes

toxic the world of equine assisted
stuff was sadly, and it came from a

scarcity mentality of of people being
worried, I think, that there was a

limited number of resources out there.

So anything new is a threat.

And I think that it's not
quite as bad as that anymore.

And I think that's been I think
you've been hugely influential

in that, actually, Nina.

I think your Scandinavian sense of
justice and fairness so Nordic, really, I

should say, has made a real contribution.

I've I've I've watched you over
the years bringing people together,

bringing people together, bringing
the organizations together, making

sure everybody has a profile.

And I think you've act I think
it's actually born fruit.

I think that you've helped to make the
culture itself more empathetic, which

was very necessary because we're supposed
to be providing empathetic services.

So if we're not leading with that
ourselves, then there's a bit of

a limit to the what we can offer
to to a client who needs it.

But, really you you've you've
been very instrumental in that

ever since the Prescott days.

So, you know, please please keep doing it.

And anything we can do to support, you
must let us know because it's it goes

so beyond individual methodologies.

It's 1 big field, and I see
it much more almost like a a

university with a bunch of different
faculties, but they're all related.

They're all related.

And it's if we want health authorities
and governments and so forth to

take us to the next level, then
we also have to start behaving

like grown ups at least in public.

So, I think you've been an inspiration
that way, and you've you've you've you've

brought out the best in people to to sort
of bring their higher self to the field.

So thank you for that.

Nina Ekholm Fry: Well, thank you.

That was a that was a lovely,
uplifting thing, and that's what

I've always felt from you too.

So I I I love the the symbiosis here.

And I so appreciate being a
guest on this on this podcast.

You know?

I I just I mean, our conversations
are always great, but to be able to

be part of the podcast community as
well and to everybody listening Yeah.

That's so lovely.

So thank you.

Rupert Isaacson: And anytime you've got
you know, and the institute has something

new coming up, let us know, and we can
broadcast it, let people know, big it up.




Well, I know that you've you've
probably run over the time that you

needed to give because fair full
disclosure listeners, I was a bit late.

And so, Nina's actually been very
generous to let us go as long as I know

she needs to run off to another meeting.

So thank you.

And let's catch up soon, and
hopefully, we get to do this again.

Nina Ekholm Fry: Of course.

We we can only hope.


I would love to.

So thank you you again for having me,
for letting me talk about my human horse

interaction staff, and, again, for being
part of this with all your listeners.

Thank you.

Rupert Isaacson: K.

See you soon.



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Ep 10: Nina Ekholm Fry - Denver University
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