Why work with Horses?
The most common question I get asked, apart from “I’m sorry what exactly is it you do?” is why work with horses?
There are so many reasons why working with horses is a powerful way of working with clients. As well as many benefits. I’m going to try and cover the main reasons in this blog post. It should be noted that I am talking about happy healthy horses, as in the EPI model they wellbeing of our horses is extremely important. A horse that is emotionally shut down is not going to respond in the same way.
Horses are social, playful herd animals with a particular social structure. They are naturally oriented towards relationships and connection and in turn offer us a way of being authentic in relationships of our own. Horses live in the present moment with awareness. They have honest and healthy relationships with each other.
Horses are prey animals, and because of this they have naturally sensitive and heightened awareness. They communicate with each other non-verbally through body expressions and energy exchanges.
They experience, then respond.
Horses model healthy relationships and ways of being. They are grounded and present. Their authentic and non-judgmental presence creates an amazing space from which to explore our authentic selves.
They are therefore able to give us unique feedback about what we’re bringing to the relationship we share with them. If we try something different, then a horse responds accordingly.
Through this feedback we can tap into and develop awareness of our own thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Horses are play animals and like to explore their surroundings ( and us!).
The main reasons we work with horses are:
They model to us a healthy way of being.
One of the main goals of equine assisted learning is awareness. Awareness gives us choice and allows us to grow and change. (You can find out more about it in my previous blog post). Horses live in Awareness. They are grounded and connected to their environment. They react and they let go. Something we, as people are not very good at. Having the horses living this way in front of us and observing it for ourselves helps us to understand and relate to it better.
They are experts at reading body Language.
Horses are a prey animal and a herd animal. They need to be able to read body language to survive. They communicate with each other primarily through body language and use this ability to decide whether what is approaching them is a threat. They can pick on on very subtle cues that we aren’t even aware of. What this means is that they can give us individual feedback about the way we show up in the world and they way they respond to us is a reflection of this.
They are always authentic in their responses.
Living in Awareness means that horses respond in the moment and to how they are feeling in that moment. Horses don’t care about what we are wearing, how much money we make or our background, they care about how we are presenting to them in that moment. What is really great about this is that we can experiment with our approach and get a different responses from the horse. Horses don’t hold on to things like we do and are non judgemental, so the change in approach will get an authentic change in the horse.
They can offer a confirming presence.
Horses can often offer us a calming and supportive presence in EAL. This is particular good for people who have experienced trauma or children as horses aren’t usually connect to the trauma (unlike people) and therefore give a safe place for the client. Horses can offer love and comfort without demanding something in return, which can be a new experience for a lot of people. They offer touch and interaction in a way that isn’t available to clients in room based coaching or therapy.
They are social and curious beings.
Being a herd animal, horses enjoy connection. They are curious about their environment and enjoy playing together. Which means that they enjoy connecting with us and we can even play together. Since they communicate primarily through body language, we have a way of connecting and communicating with them. No matter what your horse experience is.
I am often asked if I could do the same work with another animal and my opinion (and it is my opinion) is no. This doesn’t mean that other animals don’t have roles to play as therapy or assistant animals. Not at all. However in the way I work with clients, I don’t think it would be possible to get the same results with another animal.
We have such a history and connection with the horse and this combined with their unique skill set makes them perfectly suited for this kind of work.
This respect, connection and interest in the horse goes across all cultures, ages and demographics. Which is not true for all animals. What this means is that Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) or Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) works with lots of different groups of people. From children with trauma to army vets with PTSD, people wanting to work on self development to corporate team building.
I have loved horses since I was a small girl. I am amazed by what they offer in this way of working and it reminds me what incredible beings they are. How much they have to offer beyond a riding horse.
If you are interested in experiencing a EAL session I have coaching spots available. Contact me here to find out more.