The question we get most as providers of equine therapy is, "Why horses?" Most of us know the power of animals such as dogs and cats to provide a soothing presence, but aren’t horses dangerous, big, and unpredictable? It’s a great question. There are a lot of ways to answer this, and for us at Medicine Horse, it is relationship and connection. Horses are sensitive prey animals who rely on their fellow herd members for their survival, and like us, need relationship. They have so much to teach us about ourselves, others, and how important our emotions are for authentic connection. Medicine Horse's groups are designed to empathize this important part of what horses offer because we believe that relationship and connection are essential for the healing process.
There are many ways that the equine field has evolved to benefit from working with horses:
Therapeutic Riding (TR) uses the act of riding to heal and treat physical and nervous system disorders, with some social and emotional benefits;
Activity-based growth and learning models use planned activities and experiences with horses to teach specific social and communication skills;
Hippotherapy uses interactions with the horses to help with a variety of challenges, such as speech and learning disabilities;
Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) uses the presence of horses to support the objectives and treatment modalities of non-equine therapy; and
Equine-facilitated psychotherapy and learning (EFPL) focuses on partnering with the horses to create connections and build relationship as the main objective of the process.
At Medicine Horse, we practice EFL in our groups, and use EFP with our individual clients. The purpose of the sessions is to explore what it means connect with horses and each other. Our facilitators create a space where everyone, including the horses, have a voice and choice - a chance to show up as themselves and express themselves authentically. All needs, fears, perspectives and experiences are welcome - and needed! - to build relationship with the horses. We discover that our imperfect and incomplete humanity is the most important ingredient for authentic connection, and so we use experiences with the horses to practice emotional honesty, courage, risk, and vulnerability with each other and the herd, all the while learning what blocks us and what makes us strong, how to be more aware, present, calm, and confident. Embodying these qualities make the horses feel safe and curious around us, and they move into what we call “horse magic” - the moments when they help us FEEL who we are. In our own way and in our own time, we come to see how the horses ask us to be ourselves, and over the course of a group or a series of sessions, we build relationships that heal and transform us. These experiences transfer to our human relationships and to our relationship to ourselves and our challenges. We learn to grow, try, and accept ourselves and life as it comes.
Relationship and connection are why we work with horses at Medicine Horse. Learning about ourselves with these amazing creatures is an experience of authenticity that has a lasting impact that is unique and powerful. Please support us and our work as we bring this magic to those who need it!
Alison McCabe, Hon. B.A, B.Ed., GEP, M.S.
Licensed Professional Counselor