Many people in these difficult times are overwhelmed by the stress of life. The benefits of counseling, medicine and support system are all helpful, but for some people a different approach may be more beneficial.
Aspiring Champions is using a different approach to improve mental health. Through her “horse sensations” program, Shaley Griffin is using a revolutionary mental health treatment model incorporating the unique bonding experience between horses and humans to help individuals when traditional methods have not had the desired results.
Shaley Griffin grew up in the western way of life. She loves horses and is still experiencing and participating in rodeo events. She became an accomplished rider and won multiple rodeo awards and championships.
On the outside you might think she represents what most would consider “successful,” but on the inside she didn’t believe nor feel like a “champion”. Underlying her success was fear of failure, resentment and low self-worth which made it very difficult to have a life of positive outcomes.
In 2015, Shaley turned her life over to God and began a process of spiritual healing. During her transformation she realized she struggled with negative beliefs about life. She says she felt stuck in a rut of people pleasing, feelings of insufficiency and low self-worth.
Shaley realized there were many individuals that struggle with the same negative thoughts and doubts. She decided to stop hiding in shame and started helping others find freedom from the negative mental chatter. From her rodeo life, she had a competitive spirit and knew how to develop positive habits. The idea of champions appealed to her and she found that a champion has the quality and character she was learning about herself.
Shaley started life coaching individuals, teaching them how to overcome “negative chatter.” A mentor of Shaley’s once told her that her mission field was in the western way of life and with horses. She began exploring the idea.
In 2021 Shaley visited Stephanie Rocha, director of Beyond Trafficking, asking how she could help the organization. Rocha encouraged her to develop an “equine therapy” program helping individuals overcome trauma. Once Shaley and her husband Sha said “yes” to this idea of building a horse program to help the struggles of mental health issues, the concept of Aspiring Champions was born.
When people learned about her project, the western community rallied around her and provided donations of retired rodeo horses and tack. Shaley recently returned from completing her EAGALA certification solidifying her Horse Sensations program.
The Aspiring Champions Horse Sensations Program provides individuals with a unique experience interacting with horses that unveils truths within a person’s story they have not been able to uncover in traditional counseling. Aspiring Champions works with individuals 15 years old or older within the general public or local non-profits in the Abilene area. Their main mission is to provide individuals with a safe place to discover answers within themselves, coaching them to develop positive responses to negative emotions.
Shaley calls this section of the Aspiring Champions Program “harnessing” thoughts, or consciously taking your thoughts captive and directing them towards positive outcomes. By teaching individuals about developing positive habits and perseverance this strengthens self-control and self-discipline.
Vicki, a participant in the Aspiring Champions Horse Sensations program, told me when she came into this program, she was lost in her negative emotions and “didn’t know how to channel them.” She has now learned how to “harness” her thoughts that trigger her emotions and she can feel more calm and able to live life with positive outcomes.
Aspiring Champions needs help in a variety of areas. When running a program involving horses, operational cost can be very expensive.
Aspiring Champions is inviting local and corporate businesses to become a part of The Aspiring Champions Program. This means business sponsors can buy advertising space on the Aspiring Champions website, display logo banners in their program arena and/or at events that are sponsored by Aspiring Champions. Each ad sponsorship goes towards operation costs and scholarships for individuals needing financial aid in the business to participate in the program.
For more information on becoming a business ad sponsor or to inquire about participating in the program, contact Shaley Griffin at 325-669-3176 or visit the website at aspiringchampionstx.com/about-2.
Susan McCabe lives in Abilene.