Here is where horses come in. Going at the disorder from a “bottom up” model, that is to say, physically before cognitively, horses, because they are already often in a parasympathetic mode, have an incredibly calming effect on people. Much in the same way that a herd of horses all sync together physiologically, a person’s nervous system in the presence of a horse, will be to emulate the horse’s. What of course this results in is a person who feels calm without having to “think it through”. From this point, the person can then be able to identify what calm feels like, and later progress toward creating this feeling on his/her own — all without saying a word.
Recently, while surfing the web, I came across an article with the title, “Equine Therapy or Natural Horsemanship.” As this is also the title of a recent post of mine on this blog, naturally, I clicked on the link. Much to my surprise, and dismay, the article was a direct copy of mine, with a few words changed.
Now that the North American Handicapped Riding Association is now PATH, (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) they will be having their first annual conference. Hosted at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky, November 9-12, the conference blends educational lectures and expositions from a variety of equine therapy experts. Here is an excerpt from the PATH website:
While the word “authentic” has been tossed around the self help channels as easily and loosely as the concept itself is purported to be, the world of equine therapy has not been an exception. Instead, horses are said to help people become more authentic, and indeed, true to themselves. Yet, becoming more real is something that people struggle mightily with. In fact, for many people the manufacturing and maintaining of a false self occupies so much time and energy, that their real essence is all but lost, and deceptively difficult to identify. So how is it that under this circumstance, horse can be helpful?
So often in everything that people do, the doing becomes more important than the being — and the case is no different in equine therapy. As numerous exercises are developed and routines followed, frequently, the essence of just being with the horse is lost. So much so, that the fact that horses are, after all, horses and not tasks, objects or people is overlooked. When this happens, the very lessons horses can teach are lost on us. There fore, in order to really absorb what horses have to offer, sometimes it is just best to observe them in the unaltered environment — that is in their herd. For this reason, this blog is both an entrance into the nature of the herd, and an excerpt from my book, ON THE BACK OF A HORSE: Harnessing the Healing Power of the Human-Equine Bond.
While the mysticism of horses seems lost on none, and yet, not entirely understood by even those who proclaim to be equine experts, one of the most touted benefits of our four legged friends is their unique ability to always be fully present. Indeed, horses appear to only live in the now. Yet, is this always the case? Do all horses live exclusively in the present moment?
“I think, therefore I am.” This quote is possibly one of the strongest arguments for human consciousness. Yet, in order to understand what consciousness really is, or how it separates us from other animal with which we inhabit the earth, we need to look to what it is we really think about, and further, just how these thoughts separate us from what is otherwise known as consciousness. Because the reality is, the two are separate — this is also what is known as a “bicameral mind”. We are comprised of both an experiencing self, and then a self that has thoughts about that experience. And just as any person knows, the two are not at all the same. Even worse, there is a tremendous amount of confusion around where the truth lies. After all, is a person comprised of his/her experience, or is he/she defined by the thoughts about the experience? And how would a person know what his/her experience really is, if the thoughts about it dominate his/her existence? Well, in order to answer this question, we need a way to learn about what it is to simply experience, without thinking, judging, planning, or assuming. And so we look to the horse.
While most traditional therapist become quite adept at sitting with a client, identifying a diagnosis, and formulating a treatment plan, working with a horse to achieve the same gains can present a problem when it comes to developing the needed treatment plan.
“Press and release.” “Hands that close slowly and open quickly.” These are just of few of the sentiments uttered by the handful of natural horsemanship gurus that proliferate the equine world today. And as many of their techniques and theories have applications beyond simply training horses, they have easily filtered into the world the world of equine therapy. Yet as they have those who focus exclusively on equine therapy have begun to wonder just what is the difference between natural horse training and equine therapy.