The role that the horses play in Equine Therapy is often misunderstood, as in many instances the horse is only present during the session, he is not allowed to do the job that he is truly capable of. His human leaders seem to get in the way with their specific agendas and expectations leading to almost planned outcomes.
So what happens when the horse becomes a partner with the equine therapist/coach instead of a tool? When you go into a session without those often scripted agendas and you let the horse take the lead, you are able to witness incredible connections and experiences that often lead to amazing insights and transformations.
Bringing the horses in to help support men in the process of addiction recovery can often jumpstart their healing journey, by providing a safe space for them. When you let the horse “take over” they are able to act as a mirror reflecting back to the client whatever is going on with them at that time, and then will shift as the client shifts. The calm energy and sereneness from the horse allows the client to be vulnerable, and enables them to feel their emotions, sometimes for the very first time.
I have seen others connect so deeply with a horse in less than ten minutes, that they didn’t even know what happened. The tears start to flow as the emotions come up, and the individual is able to let themself actually Feel their feelings. The horse will then let the person lean on, or into them, to help them release that often pent up energy. Horses love unconditionally, they don’t judge you, and they would never lie to you. You cannot hide your feelings from them because they will call you out on it every time.
If a horse is feeling that someone does not have any boundaries the horse is able to get that person to look inside and acknowledge their own lack around that. (Usually the horse will get a bit pushy with the person or refuse to move or listen to them.) Then with a little coaching from their human partner, the horse is able to teach the individual how to take their power back and create new healthy boundaries. (When the individual is able to take the lead rope and learn to communicate better, the horse will respond, and the person feels so empowered.) Even if they have to be slightly assertive with the horse, it will always come back to them. Teaching them that it is ok to have boundaries and they can release their fear that people will walk away from them as they create these new boundaries in their lives.
People that are afraid of love will open up their hearts to a thirteen hundred pound animal that will in turn teach them to love themselves. On the first day the clients come to meet the horses, I often hear “I’m not really sure what this horse is going to do for me, but I’m here…” then two hours later, they are stating how amazing their experience was and asking when we will be back. After working with the horses a few weeks that dialog turns into “I cannot believe you actually got me to kiss a horse, and it was amazing!” They truly love working with and just spending time with them.
The clients learn to become present and just be. The horses teach them how to regulate their emotions, honor them, and move through them, instead of ignoring or shoving them away. They learn leadership, better communication skills, coping skills, teamwork, and a better awareness on how to navigate a new life of sobriety. They also learn how to honor and reconnect to themselves, and rediscover their own self worth and value. It is truly a blessing to witness the magical moments that these majestic animals help to create.