Archives for January, 2011
In the world of equine facilitated psychotherapy, the fascination of working with an extremely large, and often frightening animal, especially in a way that offers insight, and possibly healing, has held an exclusive allure for those who have come to know of this powerful therapy. And while people lucky enough to have experienced the strange feeling of wellness, calm, and centeredness that a horse can bring have struggled for words to describe this feeling, practitioners of equine therapy have put many labels on just what it is horses can do for people.
"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.