Don’t we, as equine practitioners have a duty to understand these incredible creatures as unlike ourselves? We, we must remember, come to them for healing. Not the other way around.
“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” If this statement is really true, there should be many uses for equine psychotherapy. However, being that the field of equine psychotherapy is relatively new, do we know if this is an appropriate method of treatment for trauma clients?
As early as 1969, the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) recognized the physically therapeutic impact of riding for those with physical disabilities. With promising results, the interest in this approach grew, and NARHA soon expanded to it present size of more than 800 member centers, over 3,500 certified instructors and 6,500 members.
Horses have always had to escape predators. As prey animals, their survival has forever depended on their ability to run. While horses are fast creatures by nature, they are not the fastest. However, they can typically run for longer periods of time than most of their predators.
In order to remain alive, then, they had to become better at detecting potential predators than the predators were at remaining undetected. They had to sense that they were being stalked before a predator was able to get too close, and therefore able to overcome them before they could outrun him. So the horses’ task of surviving then, becomes directly related to their ability to perceive any potential threat that enters their environment, and to react quickly to this threat.
For this reason, horses are constantly watching everything in the environment. People often describe this as “flighty” or “nervous,” as the horse can react very quickly, often without warning. Yet this is the horse’s only way of ensuring his safety. What this means as a healer is that the horse has an innate ability to detect subtle psychological shifts within a person that render him unsafe.
How is it that a horse is so finely tuned to “read,” people, and thereby offer healing, even when the answers are not obvious? Well, when a horse scans the environment, a heightening of the sensations that provide feedback for the events in the environment occurs.
I’ve long been fascinated with equine therapy (also known as equine assisted psychotherapy) — that is, using horses to help someone heal from a mental health or other life issue.
So I’m pleased to present you with our new blog on just this topic, Equine Therapy: Straight from the Horse’s Mouth with Claire Dorotik, LMFT. Claire has made a specialization of equine facilitated psychotherapy, developing an equine assisted psychotherapeutic approach that has proved highly effective in restoring emotional and physical balance to those who have battled trauma, abuse, and eating disorders.
She has written many articles for Horsetrader, Ride, and Flying Changes magazines on the subject of horses and horse training, and is also a contributing author to Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy: Straight Talk from the Horse’s Mouth, a continuing education course for psychotherapists currently offered by the Zur Institute in San Diego. You can Learn more about Claire and her background here…
Please give Claire a warm Psych Central welcome, as I look forward to learning more about equine-assisted therapy.