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Equine Therapy: Letting Go and Getting More

equine therapyWhat are you holding on to? Do you relationships sometimes feel strained? Do you feel as if you’re working harder than you should be? Perhaps you are wanting your partner to change, be something different, act differently, or do more of this and less of that.

While certainly we all come into relationships with a host of expectations, we may not always intend to impose them on our partner — yet we often do. Then as these unspoken relationship ideals unfold, our behavior toward our partner conveys that we are not really accepting them as they are.

Well there is one relationship that will provide a profound lesson in letting go — and that is with the one we have with a horse. Why? Horse are physiological barometers — registering and responding to what is happening under the surface. While we may understand on a cognitive level that when we are wanting a person to change we are not truly accepting them as they are, and more importantly, holding on to the emotions that accompany this frustration, we may not know just what we are holding to (ie: what our body remembers and holds).

Authors such as Babette Rothschild (What The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment) and Gabor Mate (When The Body Says No: Exploring The Stress-Disease Connection), have noted that the real root of stress is in the body, and that to learn to let go of it, we must learn to change on a physiological level.

So on the back of a horse we go. Like a perfectly tuned machine, the minute we become tense (or perhaps from the minute we get on) the horse also becomes tense. Conversely, the minute we let go of tension, so does the horse. Of course, there is much more to the story as more often than not, when we think we are relaxed, we are in fact, still holding on to something. And on the other hand, at times when we might think we are tense, our body may actually be quite calm. This is evidenced by the fact that kids who tend to carry very little physiological tension often cause the horses they ride to also be quite relaxed.

Can we actually learn to let go? Well having watched several thousand riders, both inexperienced and new to riding work at this I can say we absolutely can. And if we can learn to let go physiologically, have a better relationship with the horse, then we might also just learn to have better human relationships as well.

Milky horses photo available from Shutterstock

Equine Therapy: Letting Go and Getting More

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: Letting Go and Getting More. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Dec 2012
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