Guest Blogger: Written by Terri from Begin Again Ranch
Equine therapy is experiential in nature. What does that mean? For kids, it means that by working alongside the horse, the child will learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviors, and patterns with the adult coach. Horses are intimidating to many as they are large, powerful and somewhat unpredictable. This creates an opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. Working alongside a horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides wonderful insight when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.
Like humans, horses are social animals, with defined roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods, so an approach that works with one horse won’t necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. Horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning, an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups.
Horses require us to be our authentic self, whether in caring for them or working with them. In an era when immediate gratification and the “easy way” are the norm, horses require people to be engaged in physical and mental work to be successful, a valuable lesson in all aspects of life.
Most importantly, horses mirror human body language. Many complain, “This horse is stubborn. That horse doesn’t like me,” etc. The lesson is that if they change themselves, the horses respond differently. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful messenger.
For parents, sometimes setting boundaries and limits, then trying to decide what the best type of consequence are appropriate, leaves many feeling inadequate as parents much of the time. Being able to set boundaries with a 1200 lb animal is empowering and validating. All of the exercises are presented in a manner that seem fun, but always have significant meaning behind them.
Utilizing horses to support therapeutic processes for individuals and groups promote insight in a new and exciting manner. With my certified training, I guide the child in dealing with feelings, emotions and even frustrations that come up (and they will) and even how the current situation with the horse applies to something they are dealing with in their life.
As the child participant develops a relationship with “their” horse, it naturally affects them in a positive manner. The horses never disappoint and by the horse’s interaction with the child and I get the insight needed to guide the child through the issue that is presented.