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Equine Assisted Therapy
Equine Assisted Therapy
“There’s something, about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”. Regularly referenced to Churchill but in fact it was George William Erskine Russell 1906.
Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) is experiential in nature. The process allows participants to learn about themselves and how they relate to others through the participation in activities with the horses. This is subsequently followed by the client processing what has gone on with the therapist. The discussions are aimed at focusing on feelings, behaviours, and patterns of behaviour.
Horses are not judgemental; they do not have expectations or prejudices. They don’t care what you look like; are not influenced by your station in life; are blissfully unaware if you have friends or not. High qualifications do not impact upon the response of the horse to your presence (O’Connor, Vidrine, Owen Smith & Faulkner, 2002). The horse responds to the immediacy of your intent and your behaviour, and does so without assumption or criticism. Engagement at such a level can be very powerful for many people. Horses also provide poignant metaphors when dealing with intimidating and challenging life circumstances (Kersten & Thomas, 2004). Equines are able to offer a non-judgemental environment whilst displaying unconditional positive regard which is the key requisites in a good therapeutic relationship (Kim Brown www.leapequine.com).
Recently neuroscience has also make remarkable similarities between the limbic (emotional) brain of the horses and humans, which makes it possible for horses to serve as both our mirrors and our teachers and understanding ourselves, our emotional life, and the way we relate to ourselves and those around us. (www.leapequine.com).
One of the main benefits is the fact that horses mirror our thoughts and behaviour. Because they are prey animals they are able to read body language quickly and respond accordingly. If you enter a horse’s space with a negative and defensive attitude the horse will not interact with you. If you are calm, confident with a sense of openness – the horse will respond more positively. Horses are also honest living in the ‘here and now’ and as such are able to deliver powerful messages (EGALA 2005). Horses “read the client’s non-verbal communication and react to it” (Kersten & Thomas, 2004).
Horses have the ability to teach humans to send congruent messages with both spoken and body language (Rector, 1992). McCormick and McCormick (1997) believed that through the relationship with horses, people are able to lower their defences and habitual reactivity and become more receptive to new ideas and behaviours. Clients have to communicate through body language and energy which allows for acute awareness of their body and intentions.