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Equine Therapy: The Gestalt Approach

equine therapyFor most people, the practice of equine therapy itself is completely foreign, let alone a gestalt approach. Even those in the field of equine therapy may be unfamiliar with this unique way of utilizing the energy and space shared between horses and human. Yet, there is one such organization that specializes in just that.

The Gestalt Equine Institution in Colorado, founded in 1969, not only has been around much longer than many of it’s competitors, but it also prides itself on it’s one of a kind two year training program. Here is the brief description provided by the organization:

 “Founded in 1969, The Gestalt Institute of the Rockies provides the most comprehensive equine assisted psychotherapy training program currently available. Participants will gain an understanding of the therapeutic relationship between therapist-horse-client, and competency in the essential theoretical concepts and experiential process of Gestalt therapy, development and horsemanship. Training will provide basic knowledge of horses including: safety, herd behavior, ground work, riding, health care, theory and history of horsemanship, and other relevant areas of horse management. We will also provide extensive training in Gestalt Theory and Practice as well as interweaving developmental theory into all of our work.”

In answering the question that so many certification and training organizations come up against — why horses? — here is their answer:

“Horses are teachers of self-awareness; they are keenly alert, intuitive, emotional, and authentic animals. Like humans, horses are social beings that live together in herds with defined hierarchies, roles, responsibilities, and relationships very similar to our family systems. Horses maintain a state of constant awareness. Their survival depends on instinctively scanning all aspects of their environment. Interacting with horses can help illuminate our patterns of contact, allowing us to receive direct and immediate feedback from the horse on our intentions, behaviors, and incongruities. Gestalt equine assisted psychotherapy offers the client new opportunities and choices for relationship and emotional growth.”

While the two year program can be pricey — at a total cost of $7600 — it actually quite reasonable considering that it consists of eight “intensives.” Each intensive includes subjects such as Gestalt theory and practice, experiential practice sessions, information of horse behavior, care, and even a riding lesson. Again, the “hands on” focus of the Gestalt Institute is what separates it from it’s competitors. As they state, “About 75% of this program will be hands on, both with horses and working with each other in an experiential way. Many equine programs do not include any, or have very little expectation that you will become a “horse” person. We will hold that you become both a “horse” person and a Gestalt therapist.”

The idea is that every person leaving the program has owned his/her educational process and is truly able to offer something quite powerful back to the community.

For more information on this unique program, contact the Admissions Director at (303) 548-6901.

Woman and horse image from

Equine Therapy: The Gestalt Approach

Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT

Claire Dorotik-Nana LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in post-traumatic growth, leveraging adversity, and other epic human achievements. Claire has written multiple continuing education courses for Professional Development Resources, Zur Institute, and International Sport Science Association. Claire has also authored multiple books, including:
Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards and On The Back Of A Horse: Harnessing The Healing Power Of The Human-Equine Bond. For more information about Leveraging Adversity or Claire, visit

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APA Reference
Dorotik-Nana, C. (2011). Equine Therapy: The Gestalt Approach. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Nov 2011
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