We use horses in therapy for a number of reasons. Horses are uniquely suited to help humans understand our emotional needs and our physical reaction to stress and trauma. Their brain is structured and works similarly to ours particularly in areas of trauma, anxiety and depression.
Horses also teach us how to be social again—something trauma, PTSD and other mental health issues discourage us from doing. Horses work effectively in herds for their protection from predators. They have a strict pecking order, social expectations and enforce and effectively communicate boundaries. They will also act the same way with humans to teach us how to communicate, connect with others and be assertive.
A study (2018, University of Sussex and Portsmouth) determined horses recognize and remember human expressions for up to twenty-four hours after their human encounter. This study also found horses can convey seventeen emotional states and read our expressions accurately. The way a horse interacts with a client, demonstrates a client’s emotional state without the client realizing it. Horses can actually be more aware of our emotions than we are. Once the horse signals a client is anxious, angry or experiences other emotions, it becomes a talking point for the client and the therapist.
What to Expect in Our Therapy Sessions
Riding experience isn’t necessary for our sessions. Most of our sessions are conducted on the ground. Ground work is essential to building a relationship between the horse and the client. It also allows the client to work on controlling their own internal chaos, crisis and stress. Mounted work is available after groundwork is concluded, although not necessary to meet your treatment goals
Prior to working with horses you will have an assessment session which will cover your personal history. You will also be given several brief self-reporting tests to help us collect program data and mark your progress. Depending on your treatment goals, we will develop a plan and determine how many sessions you need to reach your goals.