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Can Equine Therapy Help You Learn To Listen?

horsebackcrpdFew people really listen. Sure they may hear the words, comprehend the message, but do they really listen to the meaning behind the words. Every spoken word comes with an emotional context in which it was derived. We may say, “I’m bored,” but really our body language says, ‘I don’t like this.’ Given this example, most people will surely understand that the speaker has nothing to do, but do they also understand that he/she is discontented?

This sort of listening involves paying attention to more than the words a person says, but the body language behind the words. Unfortunately, our society does not always facilitate this kind of listening. For one thing, we are typically distracted. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I listened to someone without thinking about anything else?”

My guess is that this happens less frequently then most of us would like to admit. And yet, changing our busy distracted lives can be tough.

Well, one area where it is almost impossible to be distracted is when working with a horse. Not only is focus a safety issue, but also in order to convey any message to the horse with clarity, one must be aware of what is being conveyed nonverbally.

For example, if a person is telling a horse to slow down, yet the body is tense, the message the horse hears is “Slow down but go.” Obviously, the response a person will receive from the horse in this situation would be that of confusion, perhaps even fear. in order to rectify this situation, the person would then have to examine exactly what is being conveyed verbally, and nonverbally, and in order to get the desired response, make the two align.

In addition to this, in order to work successfully with a horse, a person will have to pay attention to what the horse is conveying, and being that horses are 100% nonverbal, learn to attune to this communication method. Of course, the more closely a person can listen, the more they will read the horse’s communication correctly, and also be able to communicate more effectively.

As it turns out, much can be said be saying very little…when we truly listen.

Horseback photo available from Shutterstock

Can Equine Therapy Help You Learn To Listen?

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. (2013). Can Equine Therapy Help You Learn To Listen?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2013
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