Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Healing with Horses

Sometime in the mid 1970's a wild hearted, dreamy eyed girl moved to Kentucky to be a horse trainer. This girl, much to her dismay, ended up becoming a lawyer, marrying my father, and giving birth to me; not necessarily in that order. 

Horses remained a big part of my mama's life, and when I was old enough she brought me along with her to the stables to ride. I have so many early memories of those times on the farm with mama-most of them idyllic, warm, and wonderful. Except for the time I got bucked off a horse at about age six. Mama insisted I get back back up as soon as I was finished feeling sorry for myself. I did as much, and was proud of myself for doing so.

Life happened and my parent's marriage ended. Mama ended up having two more kids from a second marriage and I became a teenager. There was no time for the two of us to be in LaLa land at the stables anymore. I know I have looked back on those times with great nostalgia but I had never been so aware of how much I missed it all until recently. 

When I saw that my program at my University was offering an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) class I jumped all over it. For anyone that is unfamiliar with EAP, it is not therapy for horses but rather a type of experiential therapy using horses as a teacher or a tool and/ or a catalyst for healing. Sessions are conducted on a farm (or similar horse facility) and include hands-on activities with horses which help facilitate learning about oneself.

From the beginning of my class on EAP I had an emotional connection to it. But as I got further along in the class I found myself falling head over heals for this type of therapy. I started to write how amazed I was by how powerful EAP is but the truth is,  I knew instinctively all along that I was onto something special when I signed up for the class.

There are numerous reasons beyond my own personal emotional connection to horses as to why I believe EAP to be so powerful. In many cases clients see positive results and breakthroughs so much faster than in traditional talk therapy. There is no BSing the horses. They pick up on a person's energy and mirror it back to them. This seems to happen without fail and is an incredible thing to witness. Being in nature and sharing space with these magnificent creatures is cathartic in and of itself. For some, horses can be intimidating so when a client feels they have been successful in an activity with a horse it can do wonders for confidence building. 

There are so many reasons why this therapy is so amazing and research is just now beginning on this form of healing. Below I have posted the trailer for a documentary about a family who's son was diagnosed with Autism and the journey they began which led them to Mongolia and Equine Assisted Therapy. It is a beautiful, awe-inspiring journey that I feel could help many and I am honored to share.

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