Equine-assisted therapy is an experiential therapeutic form where horses participate as co-counsellors, as wise healers. The model applied at The Equine Connection uses a combination of the concepts of natural horsemanship, play therapy, story-telling, reflective opportunities, and problem-solving exercises.
Picture yourself with a horse professional, and a counsellor in a barn setting. The counsellor will pick an exercise based on the issues you have come to counselling with. You will be asked to focus on your body language, and that of the horse as the two of you interact. Once the exercise starts, the counsellor will stop the process at certain points to ask you what is happening within yourself – what images, words, colours, feelings are speaking to you internally. While interacting with the horse, the focus is continually to ask oneself what the horse’s body language is saying to you, what are the metaphors built into the exercises. What is the horse symbolically playing out for 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. There are all sorts of opportunities for metaphorical learning. Using an aspect of the interaction with the horse as a symbol of an issue the individual is struggling with, learning takes place. 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 equine exercises. The horse play that happens during equine-assisted therapy activates creativity, and allows for the transformation of struggles into something healing.