Horses assisted in healing before there was a name for it. This idea is not new. The use of horses in physical therapy can be traced back to ancient Greece. Ancient texts refer to the life-affirming relationship between humans and equines. (Bizub, Joy & Davidson, 2003) Today this modality is called Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) or Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT).
Those who have the great fortune to have horses in their lives are privileged to experience how a horse “listens” and provides comfort. Horses don’t judge. They don’t see individuals as overweight, imperfect, less intelligent, or awkward. Horses don’t place judgment on your wealth, status in society or health.
Horses, as herd animals of prey, are highly attuned to the emotional, internal states of those around them. In sessions, horses “mirror” and respond to the feelings and body language of the clients. This provides excellent opportunities for clients to recognize and understand their own feelings of fear, guilt, inferiority and anger. In this form of therapy the clients hold the answers and make the connections to their problems. Having the opportunity to explore their coping and problem-solving skills and strengths in the session is empowering and can have powerful effects on many areas of their lives. (Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, Why It Works Joanne C. May 2012)
Experience has shown that horses have a great ability to forgive and love. For clients who suffer great pain in their human relationships, the trust and comfort which comes from the relationship with the horse can be a life changing experience. Women experiencing typical life transitions benefit from their relationship with the horse. They achieve a heightened emotional awareness and empowerment. Often, personal insights are gained as well as the ability to navigate difficult life transitions such as loss of employment, empty nest, divorce, post-partum or other emotional difficulties.
Questions which may be addressed and may resonate with clients:
1. Have you become aware of any change in thinking patterns?
That it’s alright for me to think how I want to feel safe.”
“I am realizing to ….trust my instincts, hold my ground, and set and enforce boundaries. I learned a lot….
“Horses taught me to stay in the “now.”
“I was wrapped up in feeling out of control. I did not care. Now I care about things.”
“I don’t worry as much. No one will take care of me but me.”
“The horses made me aware of what I was feeling inside
2. Did you come to any new insights about yourself?
“My parents are trying to help me.”
“I need to stay calm and think.”
“I can do the right thing.”
“The horses liked me and could see what is good in me.”
“I learned that horses and friends do not like it when I am angry and shout at them.”
“At first I felt angry and hated the horses but then I started to like them.”
(Joanne C. May 2012)
My riding program, Sky Riding Long Island, offers EFP, Women in Transitions, Therapeutic Riding and more. To experience this different mode of therapy in your area be sure the program is working with a Certified Licensed Social Worker as well as a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor.