THE BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH HORSES…
…have long been recognized for building work ethic, responsibility, assertiveness, communication, and healthy relationships. 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?” In their wild habitat, horses were animals of prey – they were eaten by predators. Survival taught them to be alert, aware, and depend upon the herd for protection and safety. Like humans, horses respond to fear and danger with flight, fight, or freeze. Although horses are large and powerful creatures, their need for protection from danger is the basic motivation for their behavior. Working with a horse creates a natural opportunity for people to overcome fear, develop confidence and increase self-esteem. Working with a horse, in spite of those fears, provides insight when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.
Like humans, horses are social animals, with well-defined roles within their herds. They like to be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. Horses live in the present; they don’t think about what happened yesterday nor do they worry about what might happen tomorrow. Horses are non-judgmental, they don’t talk back and they don’t tell your secrets.
HORSES HELPING HEAL HUMAN HEARTS
Horses require us to work, whether in caring for them or working with them. Horses require people to be engaged in physical and mental work to be successful, which is a valuable lesson in all aspects of life.
Most importantly, horses mirror human body language. Many complain, “This horse is stubborn. That horse doesn’t like me,” etc. The lesson is that if you change yourself, the horses respond differently. Horses are honest, trustworthy and consistent, which makes them especially powerful messengers.
In trauma focused therapy, the horse represents a constant presence in the therapeutic relationship. The horse provides stability, reflection, and ongoing feedback to the client without interfering with the client’s freedom to develop their own solutions to the difficulties in their lives. Horses provide friendship to the unattached child and trustworthiness to the wary. Horses are patient teachers of relationship skills, parenting, and trust.