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The Oregon Horsemanship program in Wilsonville provides youth and adults with life skills

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Nina Press, left, Alyssa Hauser and Letitia Weikel-Peterson lead a summer camp at Oregon Horsemanship.At Oregon Horsemanship and Teamwork With Horses, it's more than just learning to ride a horse. The program focuses on building life skills through the person's relationship with the animal.

And over the summer, staff members have tried out new trainings and workshops that they hope to eventually increase based on peoples' needs.

Oregon Horsemanship, 4500 S.W. Advance Road in Wilsonville — which offers youth lessons, camps, horsemanship classes for kids, where children are involved with horse care, education and participation, and life skills workshops — will kick of a new Parents' Night Out Camp from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. The camp will run once a month on Saturdays throughout the year. It will give youngsters horse time where they will participate in activities, while parents can have some time out.

Teamwork With Horses, which began in August and is geared toward adults, is another leg of what Oregon Horsemanship offers. It provides women's empowerment workshops and equine-assisted learning programs for corporate teams and individuals.

Letitia Weikel-Peterson, owner of Oregon Horsemanship and Teamwork With Horses wants to help people and give back to the surrounding communities. After all, she considers her work at Oregon Horsemanship and Teamwork With Horses to be her "heartwork."

"People don't realize that horses, because they are 1,000-plus-pound animals, that they are sentient beings that have a soul," Weikel-Peterson said. "They're not a tool. They're a living creature, (and) we really promote relationships with the horses here, and that's our primary function."

Oregon Horsemanship opened 11 years ago, and Weikel-Peterson said she has always incorporated life skills into her lessons and horsemanship classes.

But this summer, Weikel-Peterson became certified in Equine Experiential Education (E3A), which allowed her to formalize the children's life skills classes and corporate training as well as the women's workshops, so she could coach adults.

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Nina Press, left, and Letitia Weikel-Peterson plan to increase workshops, classes and corporate trainings as they see fit.Weikel-Peterson said she approaches the life skills workshops with a coaching philosophy.

"In coaching we do not go to the past, we go to the current and future," she said.

The women's workshop provides a safe place for self-discovery, curiosity and play through hands-on horse exercises and self-exploratory coaching.

During one women's workshop this summer, a woman was having trouble controlling the horse. When she thought about why that was happening, she realized it was because she wasn't communicating clearly or she was thinking about an argument she had in the morning.

Both Weikel-Peterson and her associate, Nina Press, say the horses reflect what people are feeling internally. Another woman attended the workshop because she wanted to become more confident. She realized she needed to learn to trust herself. When she had this moment of realization, the horse walked up to her and put its nose against her heart.

"Trust the process, that's huge. So, if we trust the horses, the horses will direct the session," Weikel-Peterson said. "It's amazing how people, as you get them talking through an activity or what's happening, if we trust the process, they will come up with whatever they need in life today."

COURTESY PHOTO - Rose Bissig, left, Kasia Marks and Elsie Bauer groom the horses at Oregon Horsemanship. For corporate teams who want to be more cohesive or solve a problem, they can engage in and reflect on ground-based activities with the horses. The team will go through different activities, which are designed according to the team's goal.

An activity with a corporate team might include a meet and greet with the horses and a discussion around what horse each person wants to work with today or which horse they feel is most like them.

"We go through that process and we go out and actually do an activity designed for their specific goal in mind," Weikel-Peterson said. "Usually, whatever happens in the office will happen here, so if they're not communicating well, if they're not working as a team very well, if something's going on, it's going to happen with the horses; the horses reflect back."

This type of training also can be used with other groups of people, such as athletic teams.

The size of the corporate groups is unlimited and can be scheduled on a case-by-ase basis. The women's workshop tends to hover around six to eight people and camps tend to be reasonably sized at about 10 to 12 kids. For safety reasons, there is a ratio of two campers to one helper. For lessons, Weikel-Peterson said she prefers one-on-one instruction.

Oregon Horsemanship usually takes children as young as 4, though her 2-year-old granddaughter rides with them sometimes using special stirrups with handles.

Oregon Horsemanship and Teamwork With Horses is constantly adding workshops and classes depending on peoples' needs and desires. Staff members have been receiving requests for mommy and me classes, so they've started testing that out and she's heard interest from adults who want to take horsemanship classes. There also will be several camps offered year-round.

COURTESY PHOTO - Kate Stamey leads Elsie Bauer on a trail ride. For camp and workshop times or to schedule a lesson, visit http://www.oregonhorsemanship.com/ or https://www.teamworkwithhorses.com/ or call Weikel-Peterson at 971-219-5311. Registration for the Sept. 7 Parents' Night Out camp closes Sept. 6, and Weikel-Peterson urges people to call to see if there's still space available.

"The horses just give you a sense of something greater than yourself, not just because of their size, but their spirit and the connection with them," said Alyssa Hauser, barn manager. "It changes you from the inside, being around them."COURTESY PHOTO -  Teamwork With Horses works with women and horses during empowerment workshops.


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