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Equine Therapy: A New Years Challenge

equine therapyFor most people, New Years is about Resolutions. It is at this time that we take an inventory of the year past and begin to make determinations about where we would like to go and what we would like to accomplish in the next year. In this way, resolutions can be sort of like symbols of our ideal selves. This is how we would ideally like to be. Whether we will get there is, of course, another matter.

Unfortunately for most of us, we will not get there. For one reason or another, we will fail to uphold these commitments we’ve made to ourselves.(1) Maybe we get busy, life gets in the way, or we ultimately decide that our resolutions are just not realistic for us at this time. But one thing we may not consider, is are we overlooking the strengths we need to reach these goals?

Most people, after all, are not fully aware of their strengths. In Stumbling on Happiness, ( author Daniel Gilbert makes a good case for just why we may not be our own best predictors. According to Gilbert, it is not until we find ourselves in the future, that we will know how we will respond. (2) It makes sense then, that we will not really know our strengths until we are forced to use them.

So let’s face it, most people have never been face-to face with a horse. Further, most people have had to give any sort of direction, guidance or instruction to a 1200 pound animal. And having worked with horses for many years, and many more people in the realm of equine therapy, I can clearly say that something surprising always happens.

Strengths emerge where we were not aware they were. Hidden fears, sadnesses, worries, and dreams also surface, but somehow in the midst of these things, people also find their way — meaning their way with the horse.

Allison is one such example. While working with Nimo, a horse of mine, Allison had been having trouble conveying to Nimo that she wanted space — needed space — in order to feel safe. For weeks Allison had made obsequious requests, looking down and pushing her hands out as is she was trying to ward off a small child. Nimo, however, has not relented, and continued to move in closer to her, nuzzling, and occasionally nipping at her. Finally, I asked Allison, “If Nimo wants you to interact with him, why would you not want to?” Continuing to look down, Allison responded, “Because it’s never been safe.” I then asked Allison, “Who made it unsafe for you?” Breaking into tears, Allison then answered, “My mother.” It was then that I asked Allison, “If this were your mother, standing right here, what would you want to do or say to her?” Lifting her head, and stepping forward, a voice came out of her that neither she nor I had heard before, “Back off! Get the Hell out of my life!” Nimo jerked his head up as well and lurched backward. Allison’s eyes lit up, “Hey he moved back.” “Yes he did,” I responded, “and you moved as well. You moved into your strength.”

Allison had found a strength that she didn’t know was there, and following that session, she was able to assert herself with her mother and many others as well. So at a time when we all begin to lay down our New Years resolutions for ourselves, let’s also consider, a New Years Challenge — to find our hidden strengths.



Ariely, Dan. Are We In Control Of OurSelves?, Ted Talks Video, 2008. (


Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling On Happiness. Vintage Books,  2007.

Powerful horse photo available from Shutterstock

Equine Therapy: A New Years Challenge

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. (2012). Equine Therapy: A New Years Challenge. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Dec 2012
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