A Helping Hand: Jill Haunold assists Veterans through animal therapy
As an instructor of psychology and co-chair of The College of Idaho Psychology Department, Jill Haunold has dedicated much of her life to educating young people. But Haunold’s expertise – and her desire to help people of all ages overcome psychological challenges – expands beyond the classroom. By combining her love of animals with her passion for teaching and helping others, Haunold has opened the door for countless people from many different walks of life to benefit from animal therapy.
“I’ve always had a connection and relationship with animals,” Haunold said. “My whole career has been teaching young people and adults in education, so I thought it would just be wonderful to connect the two.”
In addition to her work at the C of I, Haunold has been involved with several animal therapy programs for individuals with psychological needs. She has worked with the Idaho Humane Society as an evaluator for the Prison Dogs program, and also has used animal therapy with hospital patients. Currently, her animal therapy work is focused on equine assistance for American military veterans through an international program called the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.
EAGALA is a nonprofit organization that focuses on assisting individuals with mental or developmental needs through equine interaction. With members located in more than 41 countries, EAGALA serves a large demographic of individuals who suffer from depression, trauma and addiction. There are seven equine programs in Idaho alone, one of them being Haunold’s community program, Stable Mates.
Sponsored by the Caldwell Night Rodeo, Stable Mates assists veterans in the Treasure Valley who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder by applying the skills veterans learn interacting with horses to their behavior in everyday life.
“Horses, partially because they are prey animals, are really good mirrors for veterans with PTSD,” Haunold said. “When these folks are in combat situations, they have to have a heightened sense of awareness about their surroundings for their own safety. That works really well in a combat situation, but when they come back (to civilian life) it doesn’t work as well. Horses have a heightened sense of awareness too, and somehow when we put those two together and they’re mirroring each other’s behavior, the veterans actually have to calm down in order to work with the horses.”
Haunold’s role, along with her co-facilitator, C of I alumnus John Adkins ’12, is to oversee these interactions. Whether it is a task the veteran must complete with the horse or demonstrating proper animal contact, it is Haunold’s responsibility to ensure that the lessons learned in the horse arena are applicable to the arena of everyday life.
While Haunold enjoys working with other psychologically compromised individuals, she feels that giving back to veterans is an important part of being an American.
“We’ve asked so much of them in terms of sacrifice” she said. “They’ve given so much, and they return as different people than when they left. I just feel we owe them the opportunities to come back home and live the normal American life that they sacrificed so much for us to have.”