Building relationships based on trust and respect.
Equine Therapy offers an integrated method to experiential learning teaching students the power of authentic relationship through the guidance of the horse. The central aim of equine therapy is to help our struggling teen girls create healthy relationships based on mutual trust and respect. Many times, the lack of understanding of the importance of trust and respect is the teen's core issue. Therefore, trust and respect becomes the focal point of the therapeutic goal.
Horses are used for therapeutic purposes because they are exceptional "mirrors" for our young women. Many of our students struggle with emotional control and their verbal and non-verbal communication. Horses sense and reflect these emotions and behaviors. If a girl brings tension into the equine therapy session, the horse will be tense. If a girl has negative body language or acts in a way that breaks the trust of the horse, the horse will respond accordingly.
The Value of Therapy with Horses
Horses are social creatures with a developed sensitivity to emotional intelligence, honesty and incongruence. They have survived as a species by being able to readily respond to the challenges inherent in forming and sustaining relationships.
Horses are herd animals who thrive within the connections of healthy herd dynamics. Through interactions with horses as co-therapists students are given hands-on experiences that teach leadership, cohesive relationships, empathy, social responsibility and emotional honesty.
Students Identify and Shift
Students identify and shift internal emotional patterns within the psych and deepen their awareness to their individual and collective potential. Because horses are preyed upon in nature, these sensitive creatures have maintained a highly developed ability to respond to subtle changes in stance, muscle tension, breathing and arousal levels of other horses, predators and humans.
It is common language to say "a horse can sense your fear" - however, they are sensitive to all emotions, even slightest incongruence, yet they are exceedingly patient and forgiving as they guide us to deeper levels of consciousness. Equine therapy can be especially valuable as a therapeutic process because it works on a language older than words creating shifts within a mind body approach.
Teach Lessons That Parallel Life
The Equine Therapy method is an excellent adjunct to traditional "talk therapy" allowing the unconscious systems to regulate and balance. This new internal balance allows cognitive insights to integrate and anchor at accelerated rates. Horses can be "a way in" to students who are simply stuck in unhealthy behavior patterns, trauma, defiance, addiction, depression and anxiety.
The horses are co-therapists in the Equine Therapy process providing unconditional positive regard as well as immediate feedback to a participant's conscious and unknown emotional states that can impact thoughts and behavior. Our therapists use the fruitful experience between the girl and her horse to teach lessons that parallel the life of the girl herself.
The following are some specific examples of why Equine Therapy is useful and effective for teenage girls:
- Horses will never engage in high risk behavior, and they rely on the protection of the herd. The herd has rules that keep all of its members safe.
- Working with horses encourages the girls to seek and use new solutions when old ones fail.
- The responsibility of having to care for a horse teaches students how to engage in healthy self-care, which is critical for individuals struggling with issues ranging from relationships to depression, anxiety, and high risk behavior.
- Working with a horse helps the student understand the need for limits and boundaries in order for them to become productive adults.
- Equine Therapy is based on the premise that horses provide an "in the moment" therapeutic experience that promotes emotional growth and healing.
- The horses provide an excellent way for the therapists to provide feedback to the students. When girls have issues of trust regarding adults, the horses serve as a bridge to allow the therapeutic process to proceed.
Many of our girls who have participated in Equine Therapy have enjoyed the following benefits:
- Improved self-confidence
- Healthier boundaries
- Better communication skills
- More interpersonal trust
- Decreased isolation
- Improved self-acceptance
- Increased impulse control
- Better social skills