Hope Happens With a Horse

Jul 21 2010

Why Horses

Of all the medication, approaches and types of therapy available—why are horses so powerful?  There has been many studies proving the benefits of horse therapy for Post Traumatic Shock Disorder (PTDS), depression, autism and anxiety.  Why do horses work so well?

Horses offer a few very unique traits and characteristics that lend them to very powerful therapeutic interactions.

Horses give off pheromones—that in the wild calm the herd.  Their pheromones act like anti-depressants to us, and we feel happier (less vulnerable) when we are around horses.

In addition, horses are prey animals and always keenly aware of their surroundings, social interactions and on the lookout for a predator. Their main focus is preserving the heard.

This self-preservation behavior of horses is one of the key elements that allow horses to build key relationships with people. They are purely instinctive, and cannot lie, manipulate or take advantage.  Their feelings and actions are always inline.

People experiencing horses must be mindful of their non-verbal communication, they must have clear intentions with their actions and they must be attuned to the horse.

Since horses are aware of consistencies (tone of voice, actions, and behaviors) people are forced to put their actions and feelings inline.  A horse can sense a nervous person, especially when they are trying to hide it.  This allows a person to break down their walls, become more self aware, and address the person and traits that they may have suppressed through trauma, abuse or addiction.

These unique horse behaviors allow individuals to apply solution-focused work; see what is working and continue, and when something doesn’t work try a different approach.  In addition, being able to convince a horse to do as asked (like raising their leg to clean their hoof) provides a huge sense of accomplishment, self-achievement and self-esteem.

Horses are a unique tool to use with troubled children since most have limited or no experiences with these animals.  Without having preconceived notions or familiarity with these large animals it is easier to approach the sessions with an open mind.  Horses also will mimic the behavior of those around them (they are calm with people around them are calm, they are nervous, etc).  Work with horses leads itself to projection and metaphor building – the horse that won’t walk over an obstacle becomes the sibling, parent, friend, teacher who is not meeting the needs of the child.