SCARBOROUGH — When Vicki Gelinas started her career as a certified life coach in 2010, her goal was to cultivate an atmosphere of healing and self-reflection.

Integrating horses into the curriculum, she said, has proved beneficial both to her and the people she works with at her alternative therapeutic practice.

Gelinas, who also lives at Solid Ground Life Coaching at 10 Elizabeth Lane, said people interested in working with horses are typically trying to understand something deeper within themselves: Perhaps they’ve tried one-on-one therapy, or medications, without really seeing the results they expected.

Her clients include people in grief, people with post-traumatic stress disorder, people with disabilities, and just visitors interested in working with horses.

“I have a lot of my own demons and post-traumatic stress disorder, and for a while I was not in a good place,” Gelinas said. “Working through horses really changed my life. It’s different than being in an office, one-on-one with a therapist. To be able to be outside working with animals has been life changing.”

She typically holds workshops involving horses and alternative healing work, such as animal communication, shamanism and reiki, and also offers a horsemanship program for riding lessons. She said she tries her best to keep the cost reasonable, so more people can experience this mode of healing.

“My thing with life coaching isn’t about telling people what to do. It’s more about listening, asking very little questions and letting the person figure it out versus me trying to figure it out for them,” Gelinas said. “I’m just supporting them. I want the community to be able to afford to come here. That’s more important than charging tons of money.”

For Windham resident Amy Wellington, the decision to visit Solid Ground came amid struggles with the phenonenon known as empty nest syndrome, when her third and youngest child prepared to leave home for college. She said although she was initially nervous, the horses provided a peaceful and non-intrusive atmosphere for her to face her feelings of sadness and loss.

“To me, it’s another form of counseling that helped me address how my empty nest feelings were affecting my day-to-day life and helped with my marriage, too,” Wellington said. “Being with animals, feeling their calmness and taking that energy home just gave me a different appreciation.”

Gelinas said she loves to watch the transformation people go through when they process their emotions and come to terms with problematic aspects of their subconscious and conscious thought. She believes that working with horses allows people to purge negative emotions and make room for more positive ones.

“I think we’re missing being still, being present. We really have intuition and don’t tap into it anymore,” Gelinas said. “In these horse therapy programs, people step out of their reality, maybe confide their story to the horse. Just petting them, being around them, that can be healing enough.”

Holistic practitioner Linda Huitt, of South Portland, conducts Integrated Energy Therapy workshops for pets at Solid Ground, which entails clearing specific trauma in animals and replacing them with positive energies “so they may have a greater sense of ease and freedom.”

Before embarking on this career path, Huitt said she was a project manager and systems developer at UNUM. She said it was a very logical, “right-brain” job, and her shift from technical career to holistic vocation came after her mother died in 2010. While she said she has faced skepticism about her work, people don’t have to be religious or spiritual to begin to understand how energy works.

“I have family members that look at me funny when I tell them what I do and friends saying they just don’t get my line of work,” she said. “All I can tell you is that it has worked for me and many of my clients. I don’t judge people for believing and not believing.”

Gelinas said no matter how a person tries to go about healing, it’s important that they remember to address even the smallest of incidents that may have had a negative impact on their well-being.

“We have to do the work to change. Even if you’re working with animals, the human has to,” she said. “We’re the only ones that know our struggles and the stuff inside us. And lots of times we don’t even realize how much stuff we really have.”

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.

Vicki Gelinas is the owner of Solid Ground Life Coaching in Scarborough, where she uses horses to guide people through alternative forms of healing and self-reflection.

Jack, a quarter horse, foreground, and Norwegian Fjord Franklin are used in alternative therapy sessions at Solid Ground in Scarborough.

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