By: Lindsay Brim April 25, 2018
When people learn that we use horses to help people, their mind immediately goes to riding. I am here to explain why our therapy clients don’t ride in our sessions and the great benefits of working with the horses on the ground for both horses and humans.
First I want to talk about basic horsemanship. Any good horse person knows that when you purchase or adopt a new horse, the first thing that you should do is ground work. By this, I mean spending time building the relationship with the horse on the ground. This is so important for building trust, learning how to communicate with each other and building a strong bond. This is similar to any human relationship. When humans meet each other, much “ground work” is done prior to advancing the relationship. You don’t ask someone to marry you on the first or second date, right? Well I hope not anyways!
Working with the horses on the ground helps us to learn about ourselves and our behavior patterns as well as build a relationship with another “being”. The horses provide honest, un-bias feedback to our body language, non-verbal communication, and feelings/fears that we don’t even know is there sometimes.
Here are a few reasons why our therapy program is incredibly effective and only involves ground work:
- This work of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is tried and true across the county. We have specific curriculums and activities that we complete to obtain maximum therapeutic benefit and all activities involve working with the horse on the ground.
- We are NOT a therapeutic riding facility. We chose to focus on mental health vs. serving individuals with physical disabilities. Therapeutic riding is extremely helpful and effective for those with physical disabilities such as Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, etc. There are many great facilities that focus on therapeutic riding, which is one of the many reasons we decided to specialize in mental health.
- When we are standing next to a 1200lb animal, it can be intimidating and push us outside of our comfort zone which helps us grow. On the flip side, clients feel connected with their horse when they walk side by side and they build confidence.
- We want our horses to be authentic, honest and true for our mental health work vs doing something they have been “trained” to do. When our clients come to us and they are full of anxiety, the horses often present as anxious as well. This is easy to see and manage from the ground but could be a recipe for disaster in the saddle with an inexperienced rider. When the client sees the horse being anxious, it helps them to realize how they are presenting to the world. They can also learn how to manage their anxiety through the activities with the horse.
- The age or history of the horse isn’t a factor! Many of our horses are older and they are able to have a wonderful purpose and serve others in our work. We also have horses who have been rescued and suffered their own trauma which can be instrumental in a clients therapy session and their healing.
- Our horses are able to serve clients who have no interest in riding. We have had clients that said, “I can’t do your program, I was thrown from a horse when I was 12”. When we explain there is no riding involved, they are pleasantly surprised and happy to sign up. This also gives us a chance for our horses to erase any bad horse memories.
In conclusion, we are a facility devoted to serving individuals and groups with Equine Assisted Mental Health services and we are not a therapeutic riding facility. All of our therapy sessions take place on the ground with a Licensed Mental Health Professional and Certified Equine Specialist. There are so many incredible benefits of working with horses on the ground including helping us to become self-aware, heal and grow. This work is being done across the country and over the last four years, we have seen incredible results in our very own program with our horses who love to do this work!