Julie Bakers | Founder & Executive Director

Horses & Heroes, Inc. offers trauma-recovery with the use of Equine Assisted Therapy.We specialize in trauma that has affected the brain, body, emotions, and behaviors including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for our Nation’s Veterans, Active Military, First Responders, their spouses, and children at no cost.Childhood trauma affects a large percentage of the population and is linked to adult-onset of chronic disease, as well as depression, suicide, violence and becoming a victim of violence.H&H uses licensed practitioners, certified coaches, and qualified staff to offer emotional, physical, and spiritual growth to our target demographic.

visit them here: horsesheroes.org


Find us on

Facebook:@ Kccaresradio

Twitter: @kccaresradio

Instagram: @Kccaresonline


Also available on

Itunes || Spotify || Stitcher || Soundcloud || Youtube 


KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, tells the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and connects them with the community.  

Produced by Charitable Communications 


In partnership with: 

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Take risks. Own success. Be Uncommon.

TW: @kauffmanfdn FB: @kauffmanfdn IG: @kauffmanfdn


(00:00) theirs is the intersection of the non-profit and profit communities making Kansas City a better place to live work and play this KC care segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation www.kauffman.org I’m Ruth Baum Bigus. Horses are magnificent animals often large and statuesque horses often evoke power and strength and freedom they also possess an ability to connect with humans and help them heal from trauma that’s the focus of horses and heroes a Kansas City nonprofit established in 2014 to offer trauma

(00:39) recovery with equine assisted and alternative therapies for veterans active millimers of the military their families First Responders and their children and it’s free so how does this all work well joining us today is horses and hero founder Julie Baker and she’s going to tell us all about this really interesting and incredible non-profit Julie thanks for joining us well thank you Ruth and thank you for having us on today so uh quick little history of horses and heroes um I started rescuing horses when I was 12.

(01:16) um quickly discovered that you know their trauma is similar to our trauma you know they they heal in very different ways um and so that was one of the kind of what laid the foundation for horses and heroes and we’re a military family so the the two entities kind of came together so all of the horses on our team are rescued and yes we served the military population and their families at no cost thank you for to all the donors that to help make that possible you were seven years old and you were rescuing horses

(01:50) 12 12. I’m sorry I was in sixth grade it was kind of a um I had a horse I was showing at that point but then my mom kind of announced hey we found this horse he was in a dry lot we were in California at the time he didn’t have any water and I don’t know if I don’t know the details of how they acquired him but they acquired him and announced that he was my horse and so the first time I met him um I couldn’t get closer than five feet you would start to sweat and tremble and just he was terrified of people you

(02:27) could see visible scars on his back legs where somebody had physically beaten on him and so um you know being a naive 12 year old I just thought well maybe if I just let him get used to me and you know take my time go real slow he’ll learn to trust me and that’s basically what happened and so that laid like I said a foundation of what we do today all right so from a 12 year old who loved a horse and was still yet a little afraid it sounds like both of you were afraid of each other in the beginning way back then you obviously got over

(03:05) that fear bring us up to what led to you creating this non-profit in 2014. well um a lot of Life Experiences I was wife of a Marine Corps um veteran so we lived active duty lifestyle for 14 years had three little kids while we were moving from Base to Base and you know I love the Marine Corps but they thought well six months is probably a good time to move a family um across you know from east coast to West Coast north and south and so that was our lifestyle um and really it wasn’t until we got to Kansas City that I I experienced my

(03:48) first what I call transitional phase of um being a military you know spouse and then coming into the civilian world I mean I had a conversation with another military spouse yesterday and there is this transitional struggle you know because you’re used to the camaraderie you’re used to the support everybody speaks the same lingo and you made really quick friends you know and when you’re living on base um when you live off base or when you move into the civilian world you know oftentimes that reality is really

(04:20) different depending on where you move obviously but we discovered that you know the neighbors just weren’t outside you know we were the youngest family on the Block so there just wasn’t that that instant connection and so you really do feel a loss you do feel that gosh you know where’s my mission where’s my purpose where’s my support system and so you know unfortunately that’s that’s got a very prevalent um struggle for active duty people when they transition um you know they think that they can

(04:52) come home and have this wonderful life and get a great job and it the reality is it doesn’t happen like that in most cases and so it leads to a lot of depression and anxiety and you know abuse of alcohol and drugs and unfortunately that’s the highest population of death by Suicide and so you know um to wrap around to your question when I was um back in 2013 I was working a corporate job and I knew just in my heart that that wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing you know I had all the bells and whistles in the car

(05:26) and the expense accounts I’m like you know this just is not my this is not where my heart is you know what what is it and so I kept going back to that memory of of rescuing that first horse and and that Rehabilitation and you know the trust in the bond that happens you know once once that Rehabilitation has happened and so I thought gosh it would be really great if I could bring the rescued horses in and utilize their healing stories with the veteran population because we had we had gotten out of the service at that point

(06:01) and my two oldest daughters served five years in the Marine Corps together and they were out now too and so we were watching a lot of their family and and Friends struggle that same struggle that I had experienced um and so I thought well it would be great to to do that and I didn’t I didn’t know what it looked like I didn’t know where to start or even how to begin and so I was taking a lot of long walks and going on jogs and just trying to figure this out in my head you know what would this look like and how would I start

(06:32) and then one day I was sitting on my couch and I just had this very strong nudge to go Google it and I was like Google what I don’t even know what to Google and so I typed in Equine Therapy and up popped this association called egala they’re the equine assisted growth and learning Association they’re a global entity and much to my surprise I discovered that they they do this you know and they they had a program for military and so really on the spot and it was a very a kind of a surreal experience but that

(07:07) vague idea of what what is it and what would it look like went to instant Clarity and I knew the name I knew all of the steps of okay I have to set up the corporation it needs to be a 501c3 we’re going to serve veteran population so I’m writing this list of everything um went ahead and filed for the corporate name and got that secured and so that’s how horses and heroes started it was just that culmination of those two things that were very um personal and special to me you know that saving those rescue courses and

(07:41) helping helping people transitioning that are struggling and so that’s how it started and here we are today talk about a leap of faith it was tough you know um I have to laugh but it was also very scary and my my business coach at the time when all of this was happening she kept asking me why are you doing what you’re doing and I’m like oh no because I I can yeah I was very lukewarm about it like I said and she said well when you find your why two things are going to happen it’s gonna scare the you know what out of you

(08:18) and it’ll probably make you cry and so you know I’m like great yeah but bring it on it sounds like a great time and so I kid you not when I found the gall Association on the computer that day and I noticed that they had a military program I just started weeping it was just uncontrollable weaving weeping and um I was terrified my husband as a pilot was gone so he was on a trip and he came home that Sunday and he said what’d you do this weekend I said well I started a non-profit called horses and heroes and he said what

(08:53) I said well trust me it’s terrifying I don’t I don’t really know everything I need to know obviously you know people are going to show up and we’ll figure it out but it was scary and you know we do have scary moments but it’s it’s very worth it well given our audience I would love for you to share how you got from the scary and emotional moment to actually then creating an organization you mentioned this National Organization that’s focused on the therapy aspect but how did you move things forward in terms of

(09:28) structure in terms of your programming Etc well I I did have a framework in mind like I said I wanted it to be a non-profit so we could get funding to help support it because I realized that um you know being a military person if your insurance doesn’t cover it you probably can’t afford it and so that was that was one of the key elements I knew it had to be you know funding coming from outside to help military families because military families struggle they don’t make a lot of money um and so you know just knowing in the back of my

(10:05) mind that these elements have to be in place um it has to be accessible it has to be affordable it has to be confidential because if if those elements aren’t in place then somebody probably will not have the trust to come um and in spite of being scared I mean you just have to make a plan and you just have to stick to it you know and um I guess all of my corporate training and sales training you know you just you just you can’t you can’t fold or Shrink away from those challenges you have to just go ahead and and do them even

(10:39) though they’re scary um and I I still have mornings where I wake up and I’m like oh what the heck you know but again you just have to continue to push forward so um how this all transpired is like I said I’ve set up the the corporate entity got got the all the requirements and filings in place for the state um and then went through the process of doing the 501c3 application which you know it was long but it wasn’t horrible um then I took myself to training and so that egala Association offers um trainings throughout the world and so

(11:16) I identified the first training which was um in Nevada I believe the first one was and so I bought a ticket to Nevada and signed up for the training and got the certification required to be the equine specialist and so and and all of our sessions we uh we approach it from a team approach so there’s always a licensed clinician and a certified equine specialist and then the team of horses and so um you know again I just had this list of things I know had to be had to be done you know to to make it work um and the rest of it like I said people

(11:52) showed up you know um one of the stories that we like to share how I met our our lead clinician Rachel um I had a um a client at that time and she was a psychologist and and I was sharing with her you know I just started this non-profit and I was excited and but I don’t know any clinicians in town who would I reach out to you know they would be interested in working with us and so she gave me a list of about five people and I knew kind of instinctually it wasn’t time yet because I was still going through that certification

(12:26) training still had some you know the 501c3 things to finish and so I kind of stuck that paper in my notebook and then one day again I had a very strong nudge to get paper out and so I’m looking at this paper and there’s five names on them they don’t mean anything to me I didn’t know one from the other I literally went beep think and put my finger on a name and I’m typing this email introducing myself here’s what we’re doing you know if you’re interested great if you’re not

(12:55) would you please forward this information to somebody who is and so I hit send the button and so later on that afternoon I get this call from the woman I sent the email from she’s like you are not going to believe what just happened it’s like what do you mean she goes well this morning I’m meeting with my with my professional advisor and he’s asking me what my flight my Five-Year Plan is for my practice she just graduated from you know getting her all of her licensures finished and um she was saying that she wanted to

(13:30) work with somebody to do Equine Therapy but she didn’t know who in town was doing Equine Therapy and um the advisor says well just put it out there and then you know something will connect and they leave their coffee meeting and I’m not kidding you the minute she walks out the door into the parking lot is when she received my email and she just about fainted because they just had this conversation about how she wanted to connect with somebody to be a clinician for Equine Therapy and in comes my email inviting her to be our

(14:03) clinician and so you know literally things have happened like that um throughout the eight years where people just show up and um there’s no explaining it and I don’t ask questions I just give a lot of you know gestures of gratitude um and that’s really how how all of the structure came to be is we just identified the elements we we work through the the fears that have tried to hold us back and we just kept moving forward now through this training that you took did they have a structured program that

(14:38) you could kind of model after or were you kind of creating really your own kind of curriculum we had to create our own there’s really I mean they they do and they don’t um the licensed clinicians go through their training already our state licensed um and then the equine Specialists have to have six thousand hours of equine experience and beyond that they don’t have a lot of like models to share for your business structure because it’s you like I said it’s youth all over the world and inpatient outpatient food

(15:11) addiction sex addiction uh human trafficking you name it um it’s the Equine Therapy piece is used all over the world and so it looks looks a little bit different but they do have a structure of their their mode of therapy that it’s a team approach it’s solution focused the clients have all of their own answers um and we follow a code of ethics other than that um especially here in Kansas City there was really nothing to model from and so we literally you know we’re plowing a path um through the woods

(15:48) um some of it was easy some of it wasn’t easy but um you know in terms of a non-profit business structure I mean we have to function as a business you know we we have to make business decisions like every other business needs to do um otherwise you know we wouldn’t survive but beat a non-profit it’s a challenge and that we um you know we’re constantly having to find funding you know offering these sessions to um our population at no cost you know is expensive it costs our program about two thousand dollars for an eight-week

(16:23) program so um yeah I mean that’s just to offer the program at no cost so you can imagine the expenses of of everything involved especially you know everything has increased in prices and so yeah again it’s not easy but you just have to find a way you have to find Creative Solutions and um go with your plan so tell us about exactly the I believe you have like several buckets of sessions and directed for particular people and then how you work with the horses well um it really depends on the person and their their trauma

(17:03) um you know each person has to be approached from a different different aspect and the clinicians you know they they build their own treatment plan so you know one one treatment plan for one person might include what’s called equine assisted EMDR so EMDR is eye movement no let’s see if I can remember this right eye movement um never mind bmdr okay so EMDR is a evidence-based protocol for people with acute traumas so you know if you see something and you just can’t get it out of your head EMDR is uh modality that’s

(17:42) very effective to help the brain process um that memory into long term so it’s not you know keeping you awake at night or hyper Vigilant and so um one person might be getting the equine assisted EMDR and another person might be just doing the regular what we call equine assisted Psychotherapy um so it does have its own platform and format but it’s also very loose within that format again depending on what that person might need we do body work as well because trauma affects the body the nerves the muscles

(18:16) I mean down to the cellular level and so um in bayster Kansas we have our therapeutic and business center and that’s where we do our office-based Body Therapies um so it’s a combination of corrective massage and pulse electromagnetic field therapy through a device that’s been used for decades and it has a lot of white papers and peer-reviewed articles about its Effectiveness but it reduces pain inflammation it optimizes circulation and really just brings a better sense of well-being to the person by

(18:52) creative negative ions within the body and so it helps just reduce a lot of the inflammation that causes systemic disease so how do we get the horses in there then if we’re are we riding the horses what are we doing with your horses well the horses are not in base or Kansas they’re we just bought property in Leavenworth and so they’re there and it’s ground-based so we don’t have the clients ride the horses at some point at some point we might um add a mounted piece for with the populations that we serve

(19:30) um you know just sometimes with the level of trauma that they’ve been exposed to you know if they’re having a disassociative episode we don’t want them on top of a 2 000 pound animal um and so every all of the programs that we do right now are all ground-based so that means that you’re not riding the horse um horses are ideal for this type of work there are prey animals so they’re hardwired for survival and they’re very in tune with their environment um and it’s all through non-verbal

(20:00) communication and so um through the eight week process we like I said we do have a model that we follow but it’s loose because people respond and interpret things differently but the gist of it is um the horses do act uniquely to each person um so we could have a you know one person come out and then an hour later the horses will be completely different in doing different behaviors with the next person and so we find that very relevant and we watch for repeating patterns and shifts and what they’re doing and really it’s just the function

(20:38) of um having the person identify the things the goals that they want to they want to work on and then we’re observing the horse’s behaviors during their session and we’re asking a question about what are the horses doing over there or you know what’s coming up for you now I mean because the horses do elicit um some deep deep emotional responses in our nervous system responds to the horses as well um and through their interpretations and their answers it brings really fast breakthroughs of what it is that as at

(21:11) that core of their what’s going on with them so and why they’re there so it’s hard to explain in words people look at me funny and they’re like do you pet them do you brush them like well yes and no um it goes much deeper than that like I mentioned there’s some physiological benefits um that happen that go kind of deep scientific stuff I don’t necessarily get into now but um when you’re with a horse we’ve seen Grown tough men convinced that they’re not going to get anything out of their session and by the

(21:45) end of the session they’re weeping and they’ve connected with the horse and we don’t know how to explain that how do you get your um I don’t know whether to call them clients or patients or customers how do clients yeah well they find us usually through our website we get a lot of clients through our website Word of Mouth we do a lot of work in the community so peer support groups in the different departments whether it be police or fire you know they’re coming out for their leadership trainings and so

(22:22) they’re being exposed to the benefits of Equine Therapy we work twice monthly with the Whole Health at the local VA in Kansas City Missouri and so you know it’s just a again a function of people are starting to understand and get that this modality works it’s confidential it’s not going back in their record you know it’s not going to affect their career um it’s no cost and you know they’re not being put on any medications that might be addictive and so I think a combination of those attributes are

(22:58) starting to make it more popular we do have a waiting list right now actually um we’re kind of waiting for some of the rain to stop before we we can start full force but um yeah I don’t we don’t have to convince anybody to come they’re they’re knocking on our door right now but she said funding is challenging so how are you trying to meet that challenge and and keep the service free for people as you say really are in need um we are supported through a couple of um grants one through the associate

(23:32) Association so the VA adaptive Sports Grant they they fund a certain number of clients every year um they’ve reduced that number though this year unfortunately so you know our need is rising and that fund is diminishing and so we’ve been having to do more grant writing we’re reaching out to different corporations and and be like yo you know you’re you’re a good Corporation you’re local you know why don’t you help us out in um you know help some of our our families that are really struggling

(24:04) um and families everywhere are struggling it’s not just limited to military first responder I mean populations fam we get calls from people who aren’t associated with that we do have a for-profit that we service those clients under um but yes funding is always a challenge and so we’re always looking for different fundraising avenues that don’t cost us a lot of money um and like I said more corporate support private foundations so yeah one of our one of our frequent asks is for funding for for services for sure

(24:42) well where’s the best place for people to find out more information or even perhaps to donate to what you’re trying to do um probably the best way to find out information is our website which is www.horses andheroes.org it’s all spelled out we have a donation platform there we have a venmo um platform as well um I’d have to send you the QR code or that link I don’t know that’s right ahead but sending folks folks to your website is perfect because I’m sure all the details are there how many horses do you have and how many

(25:20) people on the team so teammates that are horses I guess and teammates that are humans yes so we have eight large four-legged team members um all but two are rescued um either through the kill pen pipeline or uh we have two that were former athletes and were one was injured one developed arthritis and couldn’t perform and so instead of destroying those animals um they decided to give them a second chance and a different job um you know and that’s key too for our population you know who are unfortunately if they’re medically

(25:55) retired or were injured on on the job and they can’t perform anymore um you know the ability for them to connect with with these particular horses is um is really important for them to see that you know there is hope and there is maybe a different different job for me we have five miniature horses um and they don’t know their Miniatures and they they beat up on everybody well I say beat up but they um I I can tell you a whole story on that but I won’t it’s just it’s funny to watch them interact with big horses

(26:32) um we have two staff members that are paid and we have four or five clinicians that work with us um contractually and we have four equine Specialists that work with us and um probably a half dozen volunteers and you use more volunteers we could always use more volunteers yeah um since we just moved to the Leavenworth County area some of our volunteers were driving up from like Stillwell when we were in Shawnee and so they’re like oh that’s just too far for me so yeah we are in the midst of doing a volunteer Drive of having some new

(27:12) volunteers more in our general area um interested in helping and we have volunteer positions for being on the board helping with the horses you know if you like to mow we have lots of Mowing and groundskeeping and um data entry there’s always there’s always jobs to do for a non-profit well it’s very exciting that you continue to grow this out of your own passion and kind of your own story to to create something that’s having this ripple effect and just what a wonderful thing to provide for a particular set through the

(27:48) non-profit and then that you have this profit arm so it’s horses and heroes Julie Baker is founder executive director I would imagine walking horse person and a few other jobs as all non-profit leaders seem to have to do so we thank you so much for sharing your story and and how you’re moving things forward well thank you again it’s been a pleasure thank you for joining us on KC cares Kansas City’s non-profit voice we’re produced by charitable Communications which is also a non-profit this Casey care segment was

(28:22) brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation www.koffman.org if you’d like to be a guest on KC cares please check out our website at kccaresonline.org and spread the love and find us on Facebook and Twitter at Casey cares Radio and on Instagram at Casey cares online and catch us Saturday mornings at 8 A.M on ESPN 15 10 a.

(28:47) m and 94.5 FM thank you for joining us on Casey cares [Music]