“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Winston Churchill
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is an experiential process in which the participant works on therapeutic goals by interacting with horses. EAP is conducted on the ground and requires no riding or previous horse experience to participate.
Horses, by nature, are extremely sensitive to their surroundings and toward anyone within their surroundings. Working as large biofeedback machines, their response to a participant’s mood or change in mood can help the therapeutic process in real time — helping individuals become more aware of their current emotional state. A horse’s responses can tell us a number of things. For instance:
- How we may appear to the outside world
- How we interact with others
- Our ability to communicate
- Our ability to establish trust
Horses are herd animals, incredibly relational beings that desire safe connection. When horses feel safe and connected to us, they give their permission to lead them through a variety of exercises. And when an 1,100 pound animal chooses to trust you and follow your leadership, it significantly boosts your confidence! These lessons don’t stop at the gate of the ranch, but go with you into your daily lives.
Using animals as therapy is not new: the Greeks documented the horse’s therapeutic value in 600BC and French physician Cassaigne concluded in 1875 that Equine Therapy helped certain neurological disorders. More recent studies show that individuals who participate in Equine Therapy have significantly lower stress hormone levels, reductions in psychological distress, can become more independent, self-supported, and better able to live in the present with less regrets, resentment and guilt.
Can you imagine how this could positively impact your marriage? Imagine stepping out of your therapist’s office and stepping onto a ranch where you and your spouse can investigate what may be the hidden source of conflict in your marriage. Slowly but surely, as you gain your horse’s trust, you may see for yourself what is keeping yourself from trusting your spouse — or your spouse trusting you.
Testimony from Tiffany Ashenfelter
My first time experiencing Equine Therapy was in a group setting. Our first exercise was called “Catching (choosing) a Horse.” As I walked out to attempt my catch I was painfully aware the group would be observing both me and the horse. “They’re going to expect me to do this perfectly because I grew up around horses. I should be able to do this with no problem but what if I can’t? I was quickly distracted by my negative thoughts and emotions. I had to spend a few minutes grounding myself emotionally — so that I could make connection. As I was doing this, a horse walked up behind me and nudged me in the shoulder and essentially “chose” me. It was incredibly humbling, and made me feel really special in that moment.
What I realized about myself that day was how much I assume responsibility for the expectations others may or may not have for me and how much anxiety and self-doubt it can create inside of me.
Testimony from “D”
I had to learn how to recognize and become more in-tune with how I feel so I could approach the horses and work with them. This has helped me learn how to do this in my daily life, too.
Just like horses, humans are incredibly relational beings that desire safe connection. When your spouse/friend/coworker feels safe and connected to you, they give you their permission to lead as they offer their willingness to confidently walk alongside.
Common Fears and Concerns of Equine Therapy
It’s common and completely OK to have fears or concerns about working with these large animals. Like any obstacle in our life, it may appear more daunting than it actually is once you begin to experience it anew. Rest assured you will never be unattended with a horse nor put in any position where your physical safety is at risk.
Instead, imagine the confidence you’ll gain through the process as you overcome your fear and realize a new appreciation for horses and for yourself. Spending time with horses — away from the noise and distractions of the city — can not only help you feel better about yourself but help improve your most important relationships.
Reserve Your Spot Today
Just 45 minutes outside of downtown Dallas, come disconnect with technology and connect with nature. Hear the rustle of wind in the trees, see the birds overhead and crickets in the grass, feel the bright spring blooms underfoot and rough uneven terrain of the pasture, smell the hay, horses and saddles, taste the peace that being in nature brings.
Discover more about yourself and how you can improve the inner-workings of your marriage, relationships and self. Reserve your spot today.