How It Works
Our clients bond with our horses and through that relationship learn to love, communicate, nurture and trust. For some, this is the first experience of true belonging they have ever had. Clients who have felt powerless, defeated, rejected or cast away can experience the feeling of being needed and loved. Clients who have been hurt in their relationships with people can rebuild their trust and sense of safety. Caring for a horse can be a means of learning how to give and receive nurturing for people raised in a home where nurturing was not present. Children, in particular, often turn to animals when seeking emotional support. Learning to trust their equine partner can be the beginning of renewing trust in people.
Horses are nonjudgmental and listen without interrupting or offering advice. With them we feel accepted unconditionally, which is not always the case with people. They are a place we can go for support when we feel threatened by seeking encouragement from people. Often our clients just need to connect with the horses, grooming, and giving and receiving safe touch. For clients who are facing life challenges, the soothing effect of stroking a horse can be very healing in itself.
Clients develop empathy through learning to understand a horse’s feelings, behaviors, and needs. Being responsible for their horses helps clients learn accountability and responsibility for their behavior. Clients can also learn about self-care through nurturing a horse.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy can provide an opportunity to learn self-discipline and the ability to manage our emotions and responses. Simply stated, anxiety and anger don’t work with horses, and a person interacting with them will be required to manage their emotions to keep the horse from withdrawing.
Experiential learning with horses and achieving success - earning the horse’s respect and cooperation can dramatically increase a client’s sense of personal power and confidence. Particularly for clients who have been victimized or experienced powerlessness in the past, the experience of relationship with a horse can boost their sense of their own strength and ability to handle people and events in life that previously made them feel powerless. This is particularly relevant to the need to set boundaries. It is, for example, an awesome experience of empowerment when a child who has been victimized by an adult twice her size learns to direct the movement of a 1000 pound horse and sets boundaries that make him respect her space. Learning to trust a horse can be a restoration of trust in something larger, more powerful, and the realization that she is no longer without the power to keep herself safe.
As with any experiential approach, the best way to understand it is to experience it firsthand. We invite you to call us for additional information and to arrange for demonstrations. Please email us at Lissa@flyingchange.org