Equine-assisted therapy is an experiential therapeutic form whereby horses participate as co-counsellors, as wise healers. The model applied at The Equine Connection emphasizes attending to your body and your inner world. This is done by being with the horses in a reflective manner – attending to your breath and scanning your body, noticing what the body is saying. We promote breathing techniques, entering your imagination, connecting with Mother Nature, recognizing how animals and everything around you is constantly talking to you. We invite participants to trust what spontaneously arises within you. Sessions also include story-telling, doing art, and meditation, as well as participating in problem-solving exercises.
We also like to invite bodyworkers to our retreats to offer participants treatments, such as cranial sacral sessions. People are on massage tables while in the arena with the horses. The horses are energyworkers and assist the bodyworkers. We have also done movement, dance and qigong while in the arena with the horses.
Picture yourself with a horse professional, and a counsellor, as well as other curious folks – in a barn setting, sitting around a fire or sharing tea. The counsellor will pick an exercise based on the aspects of self you wish to explore. You will be asked to focus on your body language, and that of the horse as the two of you interact. After everyone has had an exchange with a horse, the counsellor will ask you what happened within yourself – what images, words, colours, feelings are speaking to you internally. While interacting with the horse, you are invited to ask yourself what the horse’s body language is saying to you. What is the horse symbolically playing out for you and/or literally telling you?
Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds. Horses have distinct personalities, attitudes, and moods. They have their own individual life stories, just like us.
There are all sorts of opportunities for metaphorical and literal learning in the company of the horses. Using the dynamics of an exercise to symbolize a particular topic, exercises are done with the horses, which leads to a deepening of our self-awareness. Due to the fact that horses have the ability to mirror exactly what human body language is telling them, many opportunities arise to learn from the horses. The horse play that happens during equine-assisted therapy activates creativity, and allows for the transformation of struggles into something healing.