One question we are often asked is 'Why horses?'
Horses have many characteristics that make them fabulous partners for therapeutic work. The simplest answer is that horses act as a mirror to our emotions and energy making them ideal for helping open our eyes to our behaviours and body language.
They are innately emotionally literate. In the wild the herd has to work together
co-operatively in order to survive. They are experts in reading body language and emotional energy. Naturally they have a family structure not unlike humans, caring for and protecting each other. For example, if you have ever seen a herd of horses with some laying down asleep you will notice there are always some standing round them on guard. In domestication horses bring these skills into their relationships with humans - this is why we have worked alongside each other for 1000s of years.
The presence of a horse, whatever its size can have a calming effect on the humans with it. As our breathing begins to mirror their slower deeper breathing rate it relaxes and calms us. We mirror each other in many ways so horses can show us our true emotions and give instant feedback as we begin to successfully regulate and manage our feelings.
Our horses vary in size, so we are able to work with people of all ages and confidence levels. They live as a family herd and are great at demonstrating all facets of family life from protective adults to annoying siblings! Our horses are very used to their role and are able to calmly welcome new humans into their space.
The horses will teach patience, tenacity, emotional regulation as well as build confidence and trust. The way they respond will teach assertiveness over passive or aggressive behaviour. They are great in developing a sense of purpose and focus on what you want to achieve. The ways they help us in the sessions are limitless and we are constantly surprised by the new things the families who visit us discover from the horses
We often use metaphor to help families explore their situations and get learning for example, obstacles in the field may represent obstacles in their lives. With the horses as companion helpers our visitors can discover how to overcome both types of obstacle.
Above all this they are amazing creatures to be around. When a horse chooses to stay with you or walk with you there is no feeling like it in the world. Many people comment on how lovely and peaceful our site is. We are grateful that so much of that is due to the nature and presence of the horses.
Whats the science behind it?
There has been a lot of studies into how just being around horses can make changes to human brainwave patterns. They help us calm down and become more centred and focused.
These psychological benefits of working with horses are being recognised by growing numbers of therapists in a wide range of areas including but not limited to autistic children, young people with behavioural problems, adults with depression and celebrities with addictions.
Studies have shown that spending time with horses, even a short time like 10 to 15 minutes, increases the amount of endorphins that are released into the body and decreases the levels of a chemical called cortisol - which is a hormone that controls stress and arousal. Because many troubled teens are in a near-constant state of emotional arousal and/or stress, Equine Assisted Therapy can help them feel calmer and more balanced.
You can find more research articles here is you are interested in the science behind the magic!