For many people, being around animals is simply easier than being around people. No shortage of sentiments are written about the fact that animals do not judge, criticize, or reject us. And yet, do we ever stop to consider, is the ease with which we connect with animals in any way distracting us from the very things that might be preventing connection in human relationships.
While the facilitators of equine therapy promote the idea that equine therapy offers a way for people who do feel understood by other people to feel accepted and perhaps begin to understand themselves, is this actually turning the focus away from the very things that might be obfuscating human connection?
Interestingly, this question can be explored beyond the context of equine therapy. Many people own dogs, cats, birds, and a host of other animals for the many companionship qualities they offer. Can we say that these people are ignoring their desire for human companionship — and the consequent search for it — by simply purchasing an “animal friend”?
As with any question, there are probably several separate circumstances which will give a multitude of different answers. Some people may own animals, and not have any trouble with human connection, while other may purchase a pet for this very reason.
But the two are not inter-changeable. Equine therapy, or owning a horse, dog or cat, will never be the same as developing a deep emotional bond with a person. At best, equine therapy can offer a window into understand what are the barriers to human connection? From that point, the work is with people, not horses.
Because our fears, insecurities, and defenses, whatever they are, needed to be worked out in the circumstances in which they were originated. As a horse did not do the original damage to a person who has been hurt by another, a horse cannot soothe the fears that it will happen again. While equine therapy can provide comfort, and understanding, that understanding must be taken into human relationships. It is at this point, that horses truly do their best work, because we allow them to be what they are — horses — and not expect, or force upon them our unmet human needs.
Love my cat photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 4 Apr 2013