The Who & The What

At Willow Equine:

1.) All Sessions are Ground Based (No riding or horsemanship needed or taught)

2.) We work as a Team (Clients, Horses, a Licensed Mental Health Professional & a Certified Equine Specialist are in every session)

3.) Sessions are Client Centered & Solution-Oriented

4.) We adhere to a Code of Ethics

Our Core Values are Commitment, Courage, Integrity & Trust

What type of clients benefit from this work?

Willow Equine works with teenagers and adults with an array of challenges. Our experienced therapists work with trauma, depression, anxiety, grief, and self-harm. Brain Spotting, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), and Reiki can be incorporated into the counseling session.

We tailor our sessions to fit your needs and goals. The horses (and llamas) take what is held inside of us and translates it into tangible experiences. The horses move freely in their pastures and can interact with the clients as they wish. This creates a space for clients, with the support of the professional facilitators, to project, reflect, and make deeper connections. While riding and horsemanship are beneficial, it obscures the primary mechanism which makes this work so effective – the horse’s natural and unfiltered responses. Their unbiased response is reflective of the client’s behavior, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes thus creating a learning opportunity.

Our nonprofit, Soul to Soles Connection is dedicated to reducing the impact of trauma in America’s active-duty military, Veterans, first responders and their families. It provides FREE ground-based counseling, with horses, at our farm. This program is strengthened through generous donors, sponsors, and grants. We never turn away someone who has the courage to ask for help as America’s heroes and their families have made innumerable sacrifices for our Freedoms. Make a Donation Today!

What are some of the benefits?

  • Assertiveness
  • Attitude
  • Awareness
  • Boundaries
  • Creative Thinking
  • Confidence
  • Leadership
  • Non Verbal / Verbal Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Teamwork

We are experienced working with:

What to Expect:

The client is in the driver’s seat and takes the lead! A licensed mental health professional, a certified equine specialist, and the horses are always in each session. The professional facilitators ensure physical and emotional safety, set up experiences, and facilitate the learning process.

We check in with the clients at the start of their session and ask what their intention is for the time. Clients choose which horses and what space they would like to work with. The professional facilitators will step back and move to observe the horses’ interactions and behaviors, which may be discussed during debrief. During the debrief is when clients realize personal reflections and insights.

We are in pastures with free moving animals so closed toe shoes are required. Dress according to the season and weather forecast.

Click below for a copy of the Welcome Letter, 2022 Liability Release Form and the 2022 Medical Form.

Meet the Team

Katie Stankiewicz, CPC

Phone: 704.237.0644

Katie has always had a passion for horses and a deep desire to see people succeed. She understands the desire for authentic relationships in life, which horses naturally offer. Katie founded Willow Equine, in 2012, to serve those seeking personal growth, improved team dynamics, or optimized leadership capabilities. In 2017, she founded Soul to Soles Connection, a program focused exclusively on the mental health of America’s military, veterans, first responders and their families.

Katie is a Reiki Master, an Advanced Eagala certified Equine Specialist with Eagala Military Designation, and a founding ARCH member. As a certified leadership coach, her work allows clients to look beyond “their limiting box” and onto their higher self. Katie’s unique skill sets, combined with the power of the horses, drive clients across the finish line in life and business!

Maria Russell, LCMHCS, Clinical Director

Maria has always had a passion for helping individuals, couples, and families cope with difficulties in their lives. Her desire is to help clients experience healing and life change.  Maria is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor and the Clinical Director for Willow Equine and Soul to Soles Connection. She has provided clinical services since 2006, and has worked with children, adults, and families in a variety of settings. Maria is an Advanced Eagala certified mental health professional with her Eagala Military Designation as well as her Arenas for Change (ARCH) Designation.

Maria treats families, couples, and individuals using a trauma focused, root causes, cognitive-behavioral, systemic model, and assist clients with a variety of emotional, behavioral, personal, and relational problems. Maria is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Restoration Therapy, and utilizes the Enneagram in treatment.  Maria is a part of Kannapolis Counseling Group, and her office is in Kannapolis, NC. She accepts private pay only.



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Jen Roach, LCMHC

Jen is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Eagala Certified. She specializes in working with women to heal wounds from trauma, and teaches tools to empower self and build relationships. She is experienced in partnering with individuals to restore strained relationships and overcome difficulties resulting from Separation/Divorce, Emotional, Verbal, Physical, Spiritual, Sexual Abuse. Jen’s expertise is in using experiential activities in order to go deeper than “talk therapy”. She is passionate about teaching you how to establish healthy boundaries in relationships, how to value and love yourself, and how to connect with your spirituality.

In addition to her private practice, Jen is a contract therapist at Onsite Workshops near Nashville, TN where she leads Experiential Intensives for individuals and couples. Jen is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and brain spotting. It is her desire to provide a safe, judgment FREE place for you. Jen owns Freedom Counseling, with an office in Birkdale, and accepts private pay only.



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Julia Rose, LCMHC

Animal assisted therapy has been a passion of Julia’s since getting her Masters from the University of North Carolina. Julia has been working professionally with horses since 2014 and enjoys working with animals to help people understand and cope with their trauma or situations. She has seen what it has done not only for others, but herself. Sharing this type of healing experience with clients, is not only exciting but an honor.

Julia works with adolescents, young adults and adult clients with a range of mental health and other life problems. She has a background in working with severe and persistent mental illnesses, domestic violence and relationships. Julia is an Eagala certified mental health professional and a founding member of Arenas for Change (ARCH). She incorporates her Gestalt and other therapeutic ideologies into her sessions. She is co-owner of Davidson Family Therapy and her office is in downtown Cornelius, NC. She accepts private pay, Aetna, BCBS-NC, Cigna, United and certified with Tricare.

Julia shares her therapy dog, Boone, a hedghog named Hiccup and a bunny with her clients! 



Read her Blog!

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Joseph Saglimbeni, LCMHC-A

Joe served over a decade on active duty in U.S. Army and continue to serves as an U.S. Army Reservist. He is a U.S. Army Master Fitness Trainer and Master Resilience Trainer as well. His style of counseling is to allow the client to choose their path. Joe encourages self-responsibility, participation, and is based in existential theory. He is active and tough, yet has an empathetic perspective. Progress is made everyday and no measure of progress is negligible!

In conjunction with his counseling practice, Joe is also a certified personal trainer and holistic nutrutionist! He understands the mind, body and spiriutal connection needed for a balanced life.

  • Spiritual – I believe in defining what makes life meaningful instead of having someone or something defining it for you. Respect and appreciate all life.
  • Physical – We need to move everyday with deliberate recovery! Our body wasn’t designed to live on certain foods and drinks.
  • Emotional – We must find comfort expressing and discussing emotions and how those emotion influence life. Always trust your instincts.
  • Psychological – The mind controls the body. Without proper maintenance, we cannot be well. Daily reflection, sleep, and rest are necessary.
  • Social – There is family and there are friends. We need both. Having healthy friendships and family relationships are equally important

Joe owns Existential Wellness in Cornelius and is dedicated to supporting and guiding anyone towards achieving increased readiness in an authentic way. He accomplishes that through mental health counseling, fitness programming, nutrition guidance, wellness consulting and mental health horses! Joe accepts Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MedCost, Optum, United Healthcare and private pay. 



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Mary Kinken, D.Min

Since the age of six, horses have been a part of Mary’s life. Growing up, she enjoyed both dressage and combined training. At age 22, Mary sold her horse to study at Duke Divinity School and pursue ordination in the United Methodist Church. In 2004, she completed a Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral Psychotherapy. She is a North Carolina Certified Pastoral Counselor and a Diplomate Psychotherapist in the Winston-Salem chapter of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. 

Mary’s work includes psychodynamic therapy with individuals, couples, families and groups. She is an adjunct faculty member of Davidson Centre of the Professions and the CPSP Doctor of Ministry program in Hong Kong. Mary found the Eagala model to be a perfect integration of her connection to horses and the art of psychotherapy. She owns Perk of Art Wellness in Davidson and accepts private pay, BCBS-NC and Healthgram Insurance.



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