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Equine Assisted Therapy

Calmness-Trust-Love

Children of trauma learn to integrate their emotions through bonding with a trained therapy horse. 

Equine Assisted Therapy for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma Teaches...

Calmness

The natural calmness of the horses allows the residents a chance to relax in a safe, supportive and non-judgmental environment. Here, they begin to reconnect to their own bodies, learning to identify sensations, feelings, and emotions. They learn through participating in day-to-day simple interactions with the horses, starting by grooming, petting, and observing.
 
These encounters are coupled with other therapeutic tools such as creating art and music, reinforced with breathing exercises and meditation, all practiced around and among the horses. The combined therapies help reduce the stress, anger, and anxiety the residents have been living with on a daily basis as a consequence of their past traumatic events and will open the way for positive self-exploration.
 
The horses are masters of calmness, most of their time they spend grazing peacefully, sleeping in a standing position, and enjoying the company of each other. Their breathing, heart beat rate, and blood pressure are slower which automatically lowers a human's own breathing rhythm, heart rate and blood pressure level of those around them. Therapy horses create a calm atmosphere for their human counterparts to begin the process of de-stressing. Daily interactions with the horses build confidence and trust.

Trust

Trust in another human being is crucial to forming healthy relationships and yet seemingly unobtainable to those affected by trauma. Each resident will create a bond with one of the horses who they will continue to interact with throughout their residency. Learning to communicate using the non-verbal language of horses, residents will progressively take back control over what happens in their life in respect to their own needs and the needs of others, specifically the horses they will bond with and care for. This will begin to build their self-confidence and self-esteem.
 
Horses teach us the values of patience, presence, curiosity, creativity, compassion, assertiveness, authenticity and solidarity. The residents will have an opportunity to interact with a herd of horses (stallions, foals, young horses, mares, and geldings). The exercises and activities we offer are partly structured and partly improvised by design, so each resident can work on specific issues at their own pace in a trustful and peaceful supervised environment, surrounded by pure nature.
 
Being in charge of a specific horse (showering, grooming, caring, curing, [longing, I don’t know what he means] riding, etc.) on a daily basis, they can explore how to interact with another living being successfully. It will also let them feel what it is like to be valued and trusted by another being. While interacting with their horse, they will learn how to create boundaries and develop a sense of respect for another in a sane, non-destructive way.
 
Seeing the result of being able to trust and be trusted by the horses, they will begin to extend trust to the humans helping and guiding their activities. From there they will start the journey of empowerment, reconnecting to their intuition, while experimenting with new and creative ways to interact positively with others.

Love

Fear is the opposite of Love.  Horses are the masters of authenticity and can help develop a relationship of honesty in which the connection of true love can be discovered. Horses, like humans, know the meaning of fear. They cannot cope, feel stressed and insecure with someone who is incongruent, hiding fear, and needs to control or dominate while smiling and saying false loving words.
 
Through the exercises the residents will identify how each horse can intuit the feelings of another, express his own needs, and teach us to respond to those needs with respect. This is the key to learning how to love. Therapy horses relate to our moods and can help us identify our hidden needs. By learning to identify our own needs, we can teach others how to love us, and that we are worthy of love. 
 
Horses are aware of how we feel deep inside and react in ways that help us to be authentic with them and with ourselves.  A horse knows if we overfeed, overheat, over control, or over pet a horse because we are unconscious of his real needs (and we feel bad with ourselves for not knowing). Just like it happens with kids who can read our non-verbal, subconscious cues such as body language, eye contact, emotional state, tone of voice, and capacity to respond to their unique needs.
 
Kids and horses know if we are fully present with them or not. Because horses can express their needs, they teach us to be present, pay attention, and to connect with them. They show us how to pay attention and connect to our own needs and feelings as well. Through mutual respect and honesty, we can learn to experience love if we are fully present and authentic with each other.
 
Historically, horses know the fear of predators such as mountain lions, snakes, and more recently, humans, who can be quite abusive. Similarly, children who have known the abuse of human predators also experience the ravages of fear.  Most of the therapy horses in our program have been abused at one time and this is an experience they will have in common with the children.
 
The horses are sensitive to the disconnection we experience as a result of fear and anxiety and will respond in ways that show us how to connect with them and with ourselves authentically in a safe, caring environment. The residents will enjoy a multitude of activities with their horse as well as experience a variety of riding styles, bareback, bitless, and bridleless. They will also interact with groups of horses, including playful foals and young horses.

Key Benefits:

  • Equine assisted therapy has been proven to significantly help people facing: PTSD, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, problems of addictions, low self-esteem, dissociative disorders, and other mental illnesses
  • Perspective:  Focuses on the present rather than past difficulties and events
  • Anxiety Reduction: Rids unnecessary fears
  • Self-Acceptance:  Supports individual creativity and unique social identity
  • Impulse Modulation: Promotes calmness and trust, emotional awareness, emotion regulation, self-control, and impulse modulation
  • Social Skills: Learns trust and interacting in a safe and sane way with horses helps improve human relationships
  • Assertiveness: Teaches how to correctly get needs met
  • Boundaries: Teaches how to set boundaries and to respect the boundaries of others without feeling rejected or avoiding others
  • Creativity: Connecting to inner spontaneity and creativity while participating in playful activities with horses
  • Positive Identity: Teaches self-acceptance, positive self-concept
  • Mindfulness and nonverbal communication skills: Inncreases conscious awareness of interactions with other beings and improvement of self-concept