In order of appearance.

Day One: August 23, 2018


Ilka ParentIlka B. Parent, MS, LPC, Dipl. Psych., Clinical Psychotherapist, Certified Traumatherapist (DeGPT) – Germany

Originally from Mainz, Germany, Ilka spent close to 20 years living and working in the United States. She earned her Diploma in Clinical Psychology in 1997 in Germany, and finished her psychoanalytical training in El Paso, Texas (1998-2003). Having been married to a military service member for over 20 years afforded her the opportunity to work in various military departments and in private practice, primarily with active duty service members and their families. Ilka completed training in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy in 2007, and is certified at the advanced level of EAGALA. Over the past 11 years, Ilka has continued to expand on the EAGALA model and combined it with current psychotherapeutic and trauma approaches to work with military service members and people suffering from childhood trauma and other (combat related) traumatic experiences. Ilka returned to Germany in 2011 and established psychoanalytically based Equine Assisted Psychotraumatherapy (PEATT) . She is an avid advocate on equine welfare in equine-assisted modalities as well as trauma-informed treatment. She has self-published numerous books about her work and perspectives on EAP and offers trainings worldwide on PEATT.

Rhys EvansRhys Evans, PhD – Norway

Dr Rhys Evans is Associate Professor of Rural Development at the Norwegian University College of Agriculture and Rural Development ( in Bryne, Norway. He is Convenor of the Equine Research Network (EqRN) and Vice President of the European Federation of Animal Sciences Horse Commission (EAAP HC).

He has been researching and writing about human-horse relations since 2008. He has co-edited the first book on International Horse Tourism (Cheval, Turisme & Societes – Horse, Tourism & Societies 2015), the Good Practice Guide to Equine Tourism (2016), and The New Equine Economy in the 21st Century (2016), amongst others and is an active researcher and activist for improved horse welfare.

Maja TarkaMaja Tark, PhD – Sweden

 Maja Tarka is an evolutionary biologist with a PhD in animal ecology. Originally from Poland, she has spent most of her life living in Sweden and is currently holding a researcher position at Lund University. She is investigating how wild animal populations differ in their ability to evolve, depending on specific traits, selection types, life histories and ecological settings. She is a board member of MiMER (Minds in Motion Education and Research Centre), an organization raising funds to support research into equines and the human-equine bond. Maja is an avid spokesperson for bettering the living conditions of equines, by spreading knowledge and a better understanding of their needs. She has had a great interest in horses for her entire life, and prefers to spend her time walking side by side with her horse, and the other members of the herd.


Katarina Felicia LundgrenKatarina Felicia Lundgren, BA – Sweden

Katarina Felicia lives in the south of Sweden, where she is establishing EAP/EATT as a treatment option and offers EAP/L and EATT and mindfulness to clients and corporations through her business, Horse & Nature, as well as trainings for Equine Specialists. She is EAGALA certified. Katarina Felicia is also a Human-Animal Consultant trained through the Learning Animals program in equine cognition and interspecies relationships, and a certified mindfulness instructor. She is currently in the process of writing her master’s thesis in Cognitive Science, about equine-human interaction and equine cognition, which includes a study on Przewalskii horses in Mongolia. In 2013, she and her team opened up MiMer, a research and education center that funds and supports research on equines and equine-human interactions. Her facility includes a hostel, with 13 horses, a mule, and a small herd of sheep on 25 acres, situated in a nature reserve. Much of her time is spent on researching and educating on equines’ abilities and equine-human interactions.

Lucy ReesLucy Rees – Spain

Ethologist, trainer and writer, she has worked in a wide variety of equine pursuits and studied different populations of feral horses to understand the evolutionary bases of their behaviour, applying her findings to training methods and domestic horse welfare. Originally from Wales, she now lives in Spain, where she has set up a feral herd for study and teaching purposes, and travels widely, especially to South America.

Lucy has written 9 books including the influential The Horse´s Mind (1993). 3 documentary films have been made about her work. Her latest book, Horses in Company, revolutionizes current views on equine social relations and demolishes the myth of dominance hierarchies.

Arieahn Matamonasa-BennettArieahn Matamonasa-Bennett, PhD – US

Arieahn Matamonasa, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist and Associate Professor at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. She is the founder of Equulibrium LLC, a private therapy practice incorporating Equine Assisted Psychotherapy with children and adolescents. She is Advanced Certified with EAGALA and has numerous publications and international conference presentations in the areas of human animal bond, ethics and non-Western views of human-animal relationships. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Wicklander Fellowship in Applied Professional Ethics for research with EAP practitioners. She is a scientific reviewer for Horses and Humans Research Foundation and a reviewer and book review editor for the Human Animal Interaction Bulletin with APA div. 17.

Day Two: August 24, 2018


Eva Balzer

Eva Balzer – Germany

Eva Balzer has 12 years of consulting experience with large corporations. An avid student, she started studying alternative healing methods for animals in 2003 and has owned her own practice since 2009 (Herzensschule – School of the Heart). Her training includes studies in animal healing, TCM acupuncture, osteopathy, craniosacral work, animal communication, and energy and shamanic work, kinesiology, homeopathy and Reiki, coaching and consulting, and Gestalt systemic constellation work. Within the field of equine-facilitated learning, Eva has trained and mentored with Kathleen Barry Ingram (co-founder of the Eponaquest Approach) and trained in the HEAL method developed by Leigh Shambo in the USA. She also wrote a book on EFL for leadership, "Pferdebegleitete Persönlichkeitsentwicklung für Führungskräfte – Führung im Einklang mit Herz und Verstand" (EFL for leadership – leadership in harmony with your heart and your brain). Since 2015 she lives with her family and a herd of 8 horses of different breeds, genders, ages and backgrounds on an organic farm in lower Saxony, where she offers trainings and seminars.

Michelle Whitham JonesMichelle Whitham Jones, BSc, PGCE, MEd, PhD candidate – UK

Prior to returning to academia, Michelle worked with children and adults with learning difficulties for 25 years within education and care settings. Her interest in HAI (Human Animal Interactions) stemmed from the dogs that were very much a part of her work as Principal of a school for children with Dyslexia and Autism. Michelle and her husband share their home with five horses and two cats.

Her PhD research re-frames ‘benefits’ of Equid Assisted Activities (EAA) by offering an analysis of interactions between dyads of autistic children and donkeys utilising both qualitative and quantitative measures. She stresses the importance for practitioners to be realistic and authentic in their reporting of benefits of EAA because of the vulnerabilities of the interspecies populations concerned. Michelle’s research interests include horses, mules, donkeys and zebras and she includes them as equal participants in research design.

Marlene Du PlessisMarlene du Plessis, BL, Diplomat Clinician Logotherapist – South Africa

Marlene was born and raised in South Africa and currently in the process of relocating abroad. Together with her team member, a registered Clinical Psychologist, she is part of a therapeutic team offering Equine and Nature Assisted facilitation and therapy to especially clients with psychiatric dual diagnosis and/or those that has experienced trauma, as well as group sessions to children with emotional and learning difficulties. Being trained to a holistic approach towards the human-nature relationship, Marlene also has a sound understanding and knowledge of human behavior. She is EAGALA Advance certified and has completed various other trainings in both human and animal interaction, such as TIR, Addiction Counselling, Bully Prevention, Advance Animal Assisted Activity therapy, Animal Behaviour (Equine), Natural Lifemanship, Psychology and NLP.

Leanne NieforthLeanne Nieforth, BS, MS student – US

Leanne Nieforth has been working in the EAP/EAL field for the past 6 years. She has training in both the TF-EAP and PATH modalities. Currently she serves as the Equine Manager at CORRAL Riding Academy in North Carolina, USA. At CORRAL, high-risk teenage girls (many of whom have experienced significant trauma) are paired with rescued horses for transformational life change in a wrap-around program that consists of equine assisted psychotherapy, mentorship and academic services. In addition to her direct contact with clients, Leanne has been researching the efficacy of EAP at North Carolina State University. She graduated from North Carolina State University as a Park Scholar with a BS in Animal Science in 2016. She is now a graduate student in the Masters of Communication program, specifically focusing on the communication and interaction patterns between humans and animals. In addition to her research and practice, she is a Level 3 Healing Touch for Animals Practitioner and avid horsewoman. Her philosophy around working with horses is centered on maintaining a healthy relationship with the creation of a shared language between the horse and the human.

Esta BernsteinEsta Bernstein – US

Esta is the Founder and CEO of Saffyre Sanctuary, Inc., a horse rescue in Los Angles. Esta was born and raised in Connecticut into a family that owned racehorses. During her early ears, racing was in her blood and in her 20’s moved to Los Angeles to become a trainer, where she worked under the supervision of hall of fame trainer and family friend, Bobby Frankel. A series of events forced her to leave that lifestyle and she perused other equine modalities, including the body, mind, and soul healing of horses, specifically with her own horse Caleyndar. Caleyndar became a world famous Arabian that was featured in Robert Vavra's “Horses of the Sun” and National Geographic’s documentary “The Nobel Horse.” He was also featured on many of artist Kim McElroy’s portraits, note cards, and other Leanin' Tree publications, as well as Ron Kimball’s images used for screensavers and wallpaper. In 2004, he won the Arabian Horse Times, Most Classic Contest and his image can currently be seen in ads for Arabian Horse World’s web design services.
A critical injury that Caleyndar came with, lead Esta into the world of equine holistic nutrition and rehabilitation. Because of Esta's well known success with healing Caleyndar, and dedicating over 20 years educating herself in these fields, she has become a go to person across the country when other horse owners need information on assisting and rehabilitating injured horses.

Esta designed her own equine therapeutic program entitled “Equalia Actualization,” that embodies the wisdom, knowledge, and spirit of the horses, combined with some of the theories of psychologist Abraham Maslow, which refers to an enlightened maturity characterized by the achievement of goals, acceptance of oneself, and an ability to self-assess in a realistic and positive way. Equalia Actualization was developed after seeing a need to bring rescued horses and people together, so that we as a species could see the real value of horses. A rescued horse knows first hand what mental, emotional, and physical trauma is, and when they are allowed the freedom to express their wisdom, they enlighten the way to the kingdom inside all of us.

Additionally, Esta is in post production of her documentary “Changing Horses” As the producer/director of this film, Esta is uncovering the depths of the horse/human dynamic from people all over the globe. The film explores the personal stories of how horses change people, so people can change the world. Through interviewing prominent individuals in the equine community, we discuss some very complex issues regarding our human value systems, and how we can adjust our societal beliefs to ensure our survival as a species.


Lissa PohlLissa Pohl, MA – US

Lissa is the principal coach of In Good Spirits, LLC, a consultancy based in Kentucky that develops leaders in both the public and private sector. She embraces a number of learning modalities including Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), Lights On LeadershipTM, and The Leadership Circle 360 Profile. Using these strategies and her innate sensibilities she assists her clients to ‘embody’ leadership and integrate practical learning competencies into their personal and professional lives.

Lissa has enjoyed a lifelong passion for horses and for facilitating human growth and transformation and has been working in the field of Equine Assisted Learning since 2004. In 2012, while working at the University of Kentucky in the Department of Community and Leadership Development, she conducted pioneering research on the effectiveness of EAL for developing emotional intelligence (EQ) and leadership competencies in nurses. She holds a Masters Degree in Psychology with a focus on Transformational Leadership Development. Currently she serves as Vice President of the Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A), an international organization that delivers certifications, and builds professional excellence in the field, and is an E3A Advanced Corporate Practitioner and Master Trainer. Her team at In Good Spirits is working around the globe to build and support individual and organizational resilience.

Organizations who have used Lissa’s services include: Johnson & Johnson, The Qatar Foundation, HEC Paris, University of Kentucky, ACT, Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky Veterinarian Medical Association, PRP Architects, The Leadership Circle, among others.