Horses helping to heal
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Michelle Jane Furlong, MBACP (Accred) UKCP reg
31st August, 20150 Comments
How do horses help participants become more whole?
Horses can help people live their lives more authentically, and they're supportive of a better quality of life too. How can horses help heal when you partner up with them? Do they know you might need healing and be willing to facilitate the process? Yes, is the answer. Having spent many years alongside horses, you notice that they are big, bold and authentic when running in the herd, each with a place in the pecking order. They are prey animals and because of this, by nature, they're very good listeners who pick up, and mirror, a human heart beat from just four feet away.
The way that they're wired up makes them sensitive facilitators of health and healing, and they live in the moment. They don't get hung up on stuff as humans do. Part of a case study I can share with you is with a horse I use to treat young people with mental health needs. My therapy horse has been known to mirror a participant who was self harming and actually had a nose bleed herself. The horse was not harmed at all, or stressed, and a vet suggested it could have been because she is a sports type of horse. In 30 years of horsemanship I have never seen this before. Horses also make no apology for the way they feel or act while in the herd. They are safe, trustworthy and dependable. They generally speaking live very freely and in the moment. They can teach us about this ability, to live lightly, to let things go, quieten the mind and interact in a more moment to moment, robust, and settled way. Also learning about the herd dynamics can remind us of living amongst other people as a member of society, which is often changing, families, friends, or with colleagues, you can relate it to whatever situation you're faced with in life. As human participants when we interact with the horses on this level they allow us into their world to engage at this very limbic level.
They can teach us about many things
- social engagement
- complex trauma
- atachment wounds.
Horse give us biofeedback, by the way they're wired up, this makes them great listeners and facilitator.
- They are safe, gentle but powerful.
- They are non judgemental.
- They can teach you things that you have forgotten, or lost, like how to be still and rest. How to be confident and bold, how to have successful learning experiences, that it's OK to make mistakes, it's all part of learning, to let things go that are holding us back and to overcome obstacles and live more freely.
A horse can facilitate a participant to overcome something, where counselling or psychotherapy might have not have worked successfully over a long period of time.
Horses facilitate participants to manage self-care, self harm, anxiety, depression, stress, addiction, PTSD, eating problems, loss, grief or a lack of confidence. It works on a biofeedback level, a deeper level than perhaps another person could display their empathy towards you.
About the author
My name is Michelle, I practice mindfulness, breathing techniques, visualisations, self-caring, as well as the healing benefits of being outdoors in the countryside. For a client or participant this model might be right for you, in order, to set a goal of working through something in therapy. I can offer you a safe space to explore your needs.
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