Upcoming Events

Blue Rein Ranch Open House

April 27, 2019 | 10am - 2pm

Come view our new indoor arena, and join us for a day of information and fun at Blue Rein Ranch. There will be:

Riding Demonstrations | Pony Rides | Silent Auction

Astro Jump | Lunch (cash only) | Games for kids

Counselling and Animal Assisted Therapy

Blue Rein Ranch is nestled in the beautiful prairie region of Southern Alberta. We offer a blend of counselling and animal assisted therapy to help people heal from trauma and abuse, as well as cope with mental health concerns like anxiety, depression, ADHD, or grief. Spending time with animals provides natural healing. A certified therapist will use activities that integrate Animal Assisted Therapy with evidence based counselling interventions.

Click here to read how Animal Assisted Therapy can be helpful for different conditions.


Blue Rein Ranch Foundation

The Blue Rein Ranch Animal Assisted Therapy Foundation is the charitable arm of Blue Rein Ranch. This non-profit society is partnered with Bridges of Hope. Its mission is to reach out to people that would benefit from counselling, Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and/or therapeutic horsemanship and reduce any to financial or other barriers that prevent them from accessing these services.

About Animal Assisted Therapy

Animals (especially horses) help people regulate an unregulated nervous system, and to restore the emotional-physical balance required for healing. They help people create new emotional pathways, and increase their tolerance for painful feelings. Broken and damaged attachment bonds are healed, allowing clients to trust again, form new attachment bonds with others, and move forward to live rich and meaningful lives.

AAT can be especially helpful for children who feel uncomfortable with traditional counselling.

No horse experience is required in order to engage in AAT. All sessions are carefully paced by the therapist to meet client needs and comfort level.

Clients often choose to blend office therapy with animal assisted therapy. We may conduct some sessions at the office in Lethbridge and follow up with some experiential healing work at Blue Rein Ranch, located just south of Fort Macleod, AB.

More About

Animal Assisted Therapy

  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Trauma/Emotional Regulation
  • Family Therapy
  • Children

A common symptom for those who are experiencing stress as a result of trauma, abuse, anxiety, depression or anything else is the inability to regulate the nervous system. This may include heightened startle responses, anxiety, panic, inability to relax, restlessness, digestive problems, emotional flooding, chronic pain, sleeplessness, lethargy, exhaustion, dissociation, etc. People who experience one or more of these symptoms often blame themselves for feeling the way they do, which in turn, can lead to extensive feelings of depression and more anxiety.

At Blue Rein Ranch, animals (especially horses), are used to help people regulate their unregulated nervous system, and to restore the emotional-physical balance required to heal. New pathways of arousal, emotion, and meaning are developed, expanding the window of tolerance for emotion as well as the capacity to develop healthy relationships. Broken and damaged attachment bonds are healed, allowing clients to trust again, form new attachment bonds with others, and move forward to live rich and meaningful lives.

AAT interventions are also particularly helpful for families. Family members will spend time together conducting activities with horses to restore and strengthen their emotional connections with each other. The therapist will help families achieve their goals. For example, interventions may focus on developing conflict resolution skills.

Animal Assisted Therapy can be especially helpful for children who feel uncomfortable with traditional counselling.

Treating the effects of trauma/stress by learning how to regulate the nervous system is one of the goals of AAT. The following illustrations show the difference between a healthy nervous system, and one that has been impacted by trauma.*


*Adapted by Marvin Vandenhoek (M.C., C.C.C.) from: Amy (2014, Nov. 24). Window of tolerance [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://bestwecanandmore.blogspot.ca/2014/11/window-of-tolerance.html

Meet Our Therapist

Mental Health Therapist

Marvin Vandenhoek, M.C., C.C.C.

Marvin has lived and worked in Southern Alberta his entire life. He grew up around animals, and is passionate about their therapeutic nature. His Animal Assisted Therapy Training was done under Eileen Bona at Dreamcatcher Association. He has many years of experience in mental health, having worked as a teacher/school counsellor as well as a mental health therapist. He has a master’s degree in counselling and is a certified member of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).

Click here to view Marvin’s e-portfolio.

Meet Our Horses

Horses are very social animals with the ability to read emotions of other beings. They react to the emotions of others with what is called bio-feedback. It is this bio-feedback that gives the therapist and the client information about what emotions the client may be experiencing, or what fears and anxieties the client may be facing. Clients will work through a variety of exercises to explore emotional regulation, boundaries, personal awareness, safety, and relationship patterns.

All animals used in therapy are screened to ensure they are suitable to work with clients in therapeutic work.


Charlie is a Clydesdale-Quarterhorse cross. He stands over 16 hands high. His heart matches his size. He loves it when people fuss over him and nothing makes him happier than if you have a treat in your hand. If you have treats in your pocket, he will find those too!


Kate is a gentle quarter horse that is retired from various rodeo events. She is calm and gentle, and has given birth to two lovely fillies during her time at the ranch so far.


Whin is one of Kate’s fillies. She was born in 2014. As gentle as her mom, just much more curious!


Misty has a variety of paint, appaloosa, and arabian bloodlines. She is very athletic and loves to show her stuff over the jumping poles.


Pippa is a Welsh pony. Although she has a bit of the typical stubborn streak that ponies are known for, everyone loves her. Especially children can’t resist brushing their fingers through her beautiful long mane!

Horses carry the wisdom of healing in their hearts, and offer it to any humans who possess the humility to listen.”


Meet our Dogs

At Blue Rein Ranch, we raise German Shepherd Dogs. Our dogs are also used as therapy animals. They are an alternative medium and can be less intimidating to work with for some clients.


Moka is a female CKC German Shepherd Dog. She is a real working dog, and very committed to any task that she is asked to do.


Zasha is a female German Shepherd Dog. She is the sweetheart of the ranch. She loves affection and is very playful.
If you’re lucky, we might even have puppies. We raise beautiful pets that go to loving homes to enrich people’s lives. Visit Blue Rein German Shepherds to see more about our dogs.


The following are common conditions that people seek counselling for. Research is increasingly demonstrating the efficacy of Animal Assisted Therapy as an effective treatment for these and other mental health conditions.

Anxiety is a normal human reaction to stress. Animal Assisted Therapy creates an environment in which people naturally regulate their emotions.
Animal Assisted Therapy has been shown to reduce depression symptoms. Animals provide unconditional acceptance, soothing presence, routine, companionship, and healing touch.
Trauma & Abuse
Trauma and abuse may cause the nervous system to be disregulated. Symptoms like high startle response, anxiety, restlessness, emotional flooding, exhaustion, and dissociation are common. Animal Assisted Therapy helps people regulate their nervous system, and restore the emotional-physical balance they need to work through their trauma memories.
Grief & Loss
Grief is a powerful feeling resulting from loss. Animals reflect emotion. This bio-feedback helps people tune into their inner world.
Forming a relationship with an animal enables people to form and heal human relationships. This can be especially helpful for youth who have difficulty connecting with others.
Animals have a calming effect that helps people of all ages regulate their emotions and maintain focused.

All services provide at Blue Rein Ranch are tailored specifically to the needs of the client. Clients are welcome to come to the ranch to meet the therapist and the animals before committing to any therapy. If clients agree to proceed, initial assessment will be conducted to determine an appropriate method of therapy. Initial assessments can be conducted at the ranch, by phone, or at our office in Lethbridge.

Sessions can vary in lengths depending on client needs. Most sessions are one hour in length. Longer half or full day retreat style sessions can also be provided. Our goal is to provide counselling that is cost-effective and meets your needs. Rates can be adjusted on a sliding scale for clients who qualify as low income.

If you feel you don’t want to engage in therapy, but would just like to spend some time with the animals, or maybe take some riding lessons, give us a call and we can certainly accommodate. Therapeutic riding rates are $50/hour. This includes the use of our tack, as well as some basic riding/horsemanship lessons.

Some client prefer a blend of office therapy and AAT. Our rates for therapy that does not involve any animals are $100 for a 1 hour session. Please visit mvhcounselling.ca for more information on non-AAT counselling.

Prospective clients are welcome to visit the ranch to meet and greet the therapist and the animals.

Please call for details. 403-894-7302

Contact us

Blue Rein Ranch is located south of Fort Macleod, AB. Copy & Paste the following coordinates into your map

49.653734, -113.308686

Our Lethbridge office is located in the Core Elements Counselling Building: 518 5th Street South

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