Horses for courses

WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM EQUINE THERAPY?

 

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Many people can benefit from spending time around horses for a whole variety of reasons.

For some it can be a way to remember what matters to them. To become more grounded and real. Being in the open air, listening to horses eat and move about, inter-acting with a huge creature that can at once seem powerful and vulnerable is a potent way to reconnect with the things that matter most in life. We all get busy, stop noticing, live in our heads and fail to enjoy the things that we once valued and pursued. For some spending time with horses allows them to check back in to life.

Others seek help with inter-personal issues, mental health issues, and relationship issues. Equine therapy is a powerful and novel way to help with all of these.

Some people have been unfortunate enough to experience trauma. It is now known that trauma affects every part of our brain. The talking, reasoning part of our brain, called the pre-frontal cortex, is often closed down during trauma so sitting in an office and trying to talk about it can be, at best, frustrating and at worse, re-traumatizing. And yet it is still so important to get help to deal with life and to be able to experience healthy relationships.

Being in the open with a herd of horses or with one special horse can allow people to access parts of their lives, their personalities and their minds that might be hard to reach in other ways.

We can all benefit from that.

WHAT IS EQUINE THERAPY?

A client may begin by being invited to watch the herd and the activity going on and notice the relationships between the horses in the paddock. Later the client will engage with one horse or with a group of horses. People can work individually or in a group. They will participate in activities with the horses and then chat about it or just be left to quietly process feelings, behavior, and life patterns.

Equine therapy involves setting up ground activities involving the horses (no riding is involved), which will require the participant or the group to apply certain skills.  Non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem solving and leadership are among the many skill sets that equine therapy will focus on.  People sometimes believe that they need to be comfortable around horses to participate in equine therapy but even those who are unfamiliar or afraid of horses, can have a meaningful experience.

WHY HORSES?

Many experts recognize and understand the ability of horses to influence people in incredibly powerful ways.  Developing a relationship with and caring for a horse has a positive affect upon most people. People often benefit by developing values such as responsibility, assertiveness, communication and a good work ethic. They can experience developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with a horse which will help to give the confidence to develop and maintain a healthy relationship with other people.

Horses naturally provide these benefits.

The use of horses is growing and gaining popularity with the rise of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning.

We are often asked, “Why horses?  Why not other animals?”

Working with an animal which is intimidating due to its size and power, creates a natural opportunity for people to overcome fear and develop self-confidence. Working alongside a horse, in spite of those fears, creates self-reliance and provides wonderful insight when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.

Like humans, horses are social animals, with well-defined roles within the herd.  They would rather be with their mates. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods; an approach that works with one horse won’t necessarily work with another.  They can seem stubborn and defiant.  They like to have fun.  In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning, an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups.

Horses mirror our body language.  It is easy to read human traits in horses. People complain, “This horse is cranky.  That horse doesn’t like me,” etc.  Then they learn that if they change their approach and behavior the horses respond differently.

Horses are honest and authentic, which makes them especially good at sending powerful messengers. They don’t judge, they don’t seek revenge and they don’t hold a grudge.

Inviting horses to support therapeutic processes for individuals and groups promote insight in a new and exciting manner.