The healing power of horses
For thousands of years horses have been mystical, magical creatures playing the role of transportation, gladiator, companion, entertainer and more. Now they are also playing the role of psychotherapy assistant through a discipline known as Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) which is increasingly being used to treat war veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Animal-assisted therapy has shown evidenced-based efficacy in patients including war veterans with PTSD, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders, dissociative disorders, and other chronic mental illnesses.
Horses are prey animals, and, like those who have been to war, rely on their heightened senses for survival. They react to and mirror the emotions of clients directly, without words. Horses respond negatively to negative emotions. They respond positively to positive emotions, and they have no ulterior motives.
1200 pounds of lie detector
The primary reason horses are used for EAP is that a horse will react or respond to a person’s behavior in much the same way that another person will. This is the dynamic that sets the use of horses apart from other animals. A horse will not give love and acceptance until the client learns to build a relationship that fosters love and acceptance, the same way they must do in human relationships. A horse responds honestly to what the client is doing in the present, rather than what the client did in the past or what they may do in the future. Once clients understand the things in a relationship for which they are responsible, he/she can make changes in themselves to improve the relationship with the horse and then apply those same changes to more complex human interactions.
It has been said that one session of EAP in the barn is equal to five sessions “on the couch.”
Before I loved horses, I had nothing to live for. Now I love horses and can’t stop seeing things to live for. ~ Author Unknown