Reynolds-based company offers therapeutic equine-focused sessions

Ashley Decker shares a moment with Minnie, a sorrel mare, at her farm near Reynolds. Decker has started a trauma-focused equine therapy session. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

A health, wellness and trauma coach is offering horse-based coaching sessions to people suffering from chronic health issues, or those who have suffered from the coronavirus pandemic.

Ashley Decker has been a health and body wellness coach since 2012. Decker runs Whole Life Wellness LLC from her eight-acre farm in Reynolds, N.D., where she lives with her husband and two children. After completing two years of additional training, she is offering Trauma Focused Equine Coaching sessions, in addition to a program called Respite sessions, to help local residents cope with the pandemic and other chronic health issues.

“Obviously, with COVID, things are very, very different, more than anyone anticipated, and what people are experiencing is trauma, collective, global trauma,” Decker said. “Pandemics are trauma.”

The equine-based sessions are longer-term coaching. They run for 90 minutes and are held once a week for six months. Clients work with horses doing a variety of activities, such as leading and grooming, with the goal of creating a trusting relationship with the animal. The sessions are ground-based, and clients don’t need to ride the horses. Decker said she works with her clients to address the different symptoms of trauma, one of which is anxiety or panic attacks.

“We would focus on restoring some calm to the body, a lot of connecting with nature,” Decker said. “We do some different activities out here on the farm to help someone really kind of settle back into their body, so that their mind isn't so busy.”


This year marks the first time Decker has offered the equine-based sessions. She completed a two-year training course in equine coaching through certifying group Natural Lifemanship. Decker also holds a license with the International Association of Trauma Professionals. She began the sessions in February, but things began picking up in April.

Shannon Mikula is an attorney who began the sessions in February. She said they have been effective in helping her take a break from the highly competitive nature of her job.

“I need help switching that off,” Mikula said. “Like most people, leaving work at work is not an easy thing.”

The respite sessions don’t require in-depth coaching and are for those not looking for a long-term commitment. They’re an hour long and can be booked as needed. The session is an opportunity for people to experience life with goats, chickens, dogs and horses, a sort of drive-by experience of farm life. The sessions can be purchased as gifts for friends for family members.

According to Decker, the respite sessions are “for someone who's maybe under some stress or having difficulty right now, to have a little bit of rest and peace.”

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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