The Joys of Ohio’s Winding Road: The Tranquility of the Equine Experience
BY GRANT JOY
As stress and uncertainty build, people have begun to look at how to deal with the trials and tribulations they and the country face. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many Americans trying to find a new normal. A focus on personal wellness, mindfulness, and introspection can be positive ways to help alleviate stress. Forging a connection with the natural environment is an avenue in which these ideas can be achieved. Southeast Ohio is situated in the Appalachian foothills, a quilted patchwork of rolling country farms and second-growth mixed hardwood forests. As a result, many people along Ohio’s Winding Road have a deep connection to the natural landscape and to the animals that live there. Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of the horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Vickie Ball-Seiter is among those who believe in a horse’s ability to comfort and act as a source of respite for humans. Ball-Seiter, who came to southeast Ohio with her husband Rick for a position at Ohio University, recently started Journey with Horses, LLC. Journey with Horses is an avenue to help facilitate experiences––both with and without horses––that allow people to cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness, self-discovery, and mindfulness.
Journey with Horses came from Ball-Seiter’s own personal experience as her job was giving her a tremendous amount of unwanted stress. “I was also working at OU when Rick’s position was eliminated,” Ball-Seiter states. “I was so stressed in my position that Rick begged me to quit. During the discernment process, I had an encounter with a horse. This was MY journey with horses. Bodacious (Bo) changed my life. He saw me as gentle, curious, joyful, and a great partner/leader in the midst of my hyper-stressful time. I found the experience I had was called Equine Assisted Coaching. [I am] certified and always ready to facilitate experiences with horses.”
It was this encounter with Bo that would put the wheels in motion to begin Journey with Horses. Ball-Seiter’s personal experience and connection forged with Bo proved to be deeply transformative. Through Bo, coupled with the simplicity and solace the outdoors provided, Ball-Seiter achieved a great deal of clarity, self-awareness, and solace as a result of her time spent with Bo and in the natural world. In some ways, Bo provided a constant therapeutic outlet and source of support for Ball-Seiter through a highly stressful time in her life. As a result of this powerful encounter, Ball-Seiter became a certified Equine Assist Coach and Life Coach. She is skilled in the facilitation of experiences that help people achieve personal growth and increased self-awareness by connecting them to the natural world and to horses.
Journey with Horses is situated on eighteen rolling acres of farm and woodlands in Chesterhill. Chesterhill is situated in south-central Morgan County, at the intersection of State Routes 377 and 555. Ball-Seiter recently partnered with fellow Chesterhillian and Ohio’s Winding Road member Karan Peters, of the Milk House Cottage, to offer clients an experience package. “Karen and I were on the Little Red School House committee together,” recalled Ball-Seiter. “I wanted to stretch my business and offer multiple coaching sessions over a weekend. Karen’s Airbnb is a half mile down the road. She can offer an experience through Airbnb and I can let my clients know about Milk House Cottage when scheduling a weekend session. [It’s] a great partnership.”
Vickie and Karen’s partnership is at the core of what Ohio’s Winding Road network is building. Through a collaborative approach, small businesses and local entrepreneurs can work together to foster a stronger, more interconnected community. Though Vickie isn’t able to offer lodging on her own, she’s able to partner with Karen to provide an experience package where everyone benefits. Through their partnership, clients are able to stay over for a weekend and that single getaway can now become a full, transformative experience. Peters will also see an added benefit in that there is now another attraction to entice visitors to stay at Milk House Inn and Cottage and explore the region. This partnership further solidifies the idea that more can be achieved together rather than apart. To further illustrate the idea of network collaboration, Vickie was awarded an Ohio’s Winding Road seed grant; Vickie was then able to produce a trifold brochure that was distributed across Athens and Morgan Counties to help generate more awareness and interest in Journey with Horses.
At her core, Vickie Ball-Seiter wants to give back to people and be of service to others. She has done this through her experience as a volunteer with the Austria’s Red Cross serving as an EMT. The belief in service to others also provides a foundational belief in starting Journey with Horses, LLC. “My goal of coaching is to focus on your perception of self; participating in a retreat or personal coaching session helps you define who you are and learn to make healthier choices,” states Ball-Seiter. “At Journey with Horses, you will experience a safe, non-judgmental space located in southeastern Ohio, USA, where you can explore your true self through relationships with others: be it horses, miniature-horses, cats, plants, or trees.” Ball-Seiter hopes the transformative experience she had can be replicated to help others get through times of stress and turmoil in a more healthy manner.
Ball-Seiter is a living representation of how one’s own relationship with the natural environment or with an animal can bring about transformative change, resulting in greater self-awareness, inner tranquility, and strength. In an increasingly tumultuous time, these are elements that everyone could use as we continue to face new challenges and changes.
About the author: Grant Joy is the 2019-20 AmeriCorps member serving this year for Ohio’s Winding Road. This is his third AmeriCorps service year. He spent the past two years serving in Colorado and Vermont before deciding to come back closer to home in southern Ohio. He is looking forward to sharing stories of the people and places that make Ohio’s Rising Appalachia a unique and vibrant region.