Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
Horse's are becoming more popular in therapy and for good reason!
Immediate feedback: Since horses are prey animals they have developed the ability to sense a person’s feelings and respond accordingly. Because of this, they can serve as a mirror which allows that client and the therapist to see and understand feelings the client may not be aware of.
Opportunities for learning: the person can use their interactions with the horse to evaluate and modify the way they interact with people. The therapist can also use the horses as a way to open conversation about the person’s presenting issues.
Opportunities for trust-building: for someone who is uncomfortable talking in a traditional therapy setting, or who has trouble trusting might find equine therapy to be a safe environment where they can open up and develop trust, both between himself and the horses and between themselves and their therapist.
Healthy relationships: horses offer people a non-judging relationship, which can help a person struggling with negative relationship consequences the ability to rebuild their confidence without fear of criticism.
What does equine therapy look like?
Therapy looks different for every client and will move through the phases at different paces. Some clients stay at phase 1 the entire time and others will move quickly to phase 3.
Phase 1: Grooming and getting acquainted with the horse
Phase 2: Learning to lead and use horse language
Phase 3: Working with the horse freestyle
What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning?
In two words: STRONG OUTCOMES. Equine-assisted work often helps clients change and grow more effectively and quickly than traditional clinical and psycho-educational approaches.
That's because people typically learn best by doing. Life lessons take deeper root when individuals both understand them in their heads and experience them in their bodies. Working with horses is engaging, real time and hands-on. The experience is immediate and fully felt.
So why horses and not other animals?
Horses are large and powerful. This creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. Working alongside a horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides wonderful insight when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.
Horses are social animals, with defined roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods; an approach that works with one horse won’t necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. In other words, horses are a lot like us socially - when we work on our relationships with them, we in turn are learning how to improve our relationships with others.
Horses respond with unique insight into exactly who we are in the moment. They are profoundly gifted reflectors of our true selves because their very survival depends on reading us right.
Because they can read and respond to the nonverbal messages we are always sending, they begin to act in ways that feel familiar to other relationships or dynamics in our lives. They become our spouse, partner, colleague, children, dreams, fears, addictions, etc. and begin to act out these very dynamics in our lives. This gives us a chance to work through those relationships and issues in a safe and nonjudgmental environment.
A client may say, "This horse is stubborn. That horse doesn't like me," etc. The lesson is that by changing ourselves, the horses respond differently. They provide this immediate feedback to real changes that we make - not what we just talk about.
For some reason, even when we feel stuck or hopeless, the horses move and make changes in the space, which in turn helps us become "unstuck." Clients repeatedly report that the horses seem to act and be exactly what is needed in the moment.
It's all on the ground
Sessions involve no horseback riding. Why? In this work, the horses are able to be themselves and not have to act a certain way, just like our clients can do. This is a space to explore, be ourselves, and build relationships on equal footing. As the horses play out scenarios, clients gain insights and begin to see and feel shifts in themselves as well.