Emotional trauma can be the result of many different experiences, including sexual or physical assault,…
Equine Therapy for Trauma Victims
Equine therapy is an excellent option for trauma victims who have a hard time opening up about their experiences or who feel overwhelming anxiety or panic. Equine therapy provides a unique environment in which individuals are able to heal their invisible wounds in a way that is intuitive and fun.
When some people first hear the words “equine therapy,” they aren’t sure what to imagine. Riding lessons? Petting a horse?
The truth is that equine therapy provides an opportunity for trauma victims to form a trusting relationship from the ground up with a horse. Knowledgeable horse handlers work together with psychotherapists to provide a well-rounded session in which individuals learn how to communicate with the animals.
What Makes Equine Therapy Work?
All animals have a built in “fight or flight” instinct. Horses, as prey animals, tend to lean heavily toward “flight” as their primary response. Without wasting precious seconds to think first, a horse will leap out of the way of danger. Only when the horse is a safe distance from the threatening sight will it stop to decide whether its life really was in mortal danger.
Trauma victims can relate to this flight instinct. Many everyday sights and sounds may remind someone of the trauma they experienced, and instead of stopping to think about it, they may naturally react. They may try to escape or hide, or they may try to fight back and defend themselves.
But always being ready for danger is exhausting. Horses rely on each other to take turns keeping watch, and they can quickly welcome a person into their circle of trust. If a horse can learn to trust that things in the environment won’t hurt it, can a person do the same? That’s one of the main premises of equine therapy.
And it does work. The process of bonding with a horse, earning its trust and learning to communicate with it to achieve different tasks is phenomenally therapeutic thanks to the fact that the horse is a mirror for the traumatized person. Trust is built through body language, attitude and intention. Exercises are begun on the ground and can continue that way, or can progress to ridden exercises as well.
While a horse trainer helps teach a trauma victim how to interact with the horse to build its trust, a therapist is also there to help the client apply these lessons in everyday life. Thus equine therapy becomes an intensive therapeutic method with great results, and is guaranteed to be one type of therapy that you’ll look forward to each and every time.