For those who are familiar with horses and understand the ability of horses to influence people in incredibly powerful ways it's an easy step to believe and recognize the absolutely amazing healing presence inherent in the horse. For those who have not had this gift in their lives, it isn't an easy step, but rather like taking a blind leap of faith in order to grasp the concept. Developing relationships, training, horsemanship instruction and caring for the horses naturally effects people involved in a positive manner.
The benefits of work ethic, responsibility, assertiveness, communication and healthy relationships has long been recognized. Horses naturally provide these benefits. The use of horses is growing and gaining popularity with the rise of new approaches in the working with the horses, including the field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Therapeutic Riding.
Let's Get Technical:
New scientific research continues to revel critical information about equine sentience - their abilities of perception, cognition, memory and emotions such as pain and fear. Equines are able to perceive, respond to and learn from the impressions they receive from minimal sensory stimuli. The stimulus may originate from changes in human bio chemistry, body language, or vocal intonations. (Did you know they can hear your heartbeat from 3 feet away?) It can also come from changes in the equine's environment, relationships with other equines, or the equines general health. In this way, equines make decisions based upon stimuli they experience from others or from their environment. (Hanng, 2005; Micol, 2002; Proops, McComb & Reby; 2009; Saslow, 2002). These abilities are based in natural, biological, physiological and psychological traits of equines. Each equine is unique in personality and has individual likes, dislikes and habits. The information gained from equine communication can have an effect on the care of the equines, their rate of burnout and the success of the human-equine interaction. In EAAT sessions or lessons, viewing the equine as a partner invites opportunities for relationship building and skill building with all participants served.
Why Not Other Animals?
Horses are large and powerful, which creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence which is beneficial regardless of the disability being addressed. The size and power of the horses are naturally intimidating to many people. Accomplishing a task involving a horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and can be very empowering.
Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have specific roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. An approach that seems to work with one horse, does not necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning. Using metaphors, in discussion or activity, is an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups.
Horses require work, 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 characteristic in all aspect of life.
Most importantly, horses have the ability to mirror exactly what human body language is telling them. Many people will complain: "The horse is stubborn. The horse doesn't like me. The horse won't listen to me. The horse is aggressive towards me," etc. The lesson to be learned is that if people change themselves, the horses respond differently. Horses are honest and incapable of lying, which makes them powerful messengers.
Why Horses? Because.....