Our version of equine therapy involves a herd of physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy horses who intentionally work with us to restore equilibrium to our nervous systems, and shift discordant energy.
Your safety and comfort
In every session, your safety and comfort are paramount. We provide information for you to understand and make sense of your experience, and give you as much choice as possible.
Any past adverse experience you may have had usually involves a disruption of a boundary. Often this leads to not trusting yourself, or knowing when you are really safe. Becoming clear on what works / doesn’t work for you, and what feels safe or unsafe for you is part of defining, and/or repairing boundaries.
Throughout our sessions you are invited to check in and notice how safe your body feels, and what you would like to have happen for more safety or comfort.
Horses’ primary need is safety
Like us, horses need to feel safe. In fact, being prey animals safety is their most paramount need. They are constantly surveying their environment for signs of danger.
Horses are non-confrontational animals
Our horses are at liberty – free to move around. This is because their first preference when they feel unsafe or uncomfortable is to move away. When horses are restrained – such as being tied up, they can’t move away, so their only defense may be to bite or kick when they feel threatened. Horses are actually safer for us to be around if they have the freedom to move away from us to a place where they feel safe and comfortable. Therefore our horses have no need to bite or kick.
Horses (and us!) focus on novelty in their environment
Our horses know each other, the facilitator, and their environment, however you are the novelty in their environment. When you enter their space they need to know if they will be safe around you. Consequently they will be sensing into your energy (such as your body language, the state of your nervous system, how present you are, your congruence, etc.) to determine how safe they are around you.
Honesty and congruence
Horses can accept if you feel angry, or upset, or unsettled … as long as you acknowledge your feelings and your outer expression matches your inner feelings. Horses can sense when the outer doesn’t match the inner – and they can’t trust the mixed messages they are receiving.
They don’t care about what you look like, what you do or have done, how smart you are, how successful you are, how much you own, etc. What they need is honesty and congruence.
Almost everything the horses do is in response to the novelty in their environment
While you are in the horses’ space, they are constantly tracking your energy – which is dynamic and always changing. Consequently nearly all their behaviour is a response to you and your energy. Your facilitator will not know exactly what the horses are responding to – however the horse behaviours can be pointed out to you for you to make sense of. Sometimes insights and meaning comes to you long after you have finished your session – maybe days or even weeks later.
What is important to remember is that energy is dynamic – it is always changing. As you change your energy (through thought, intention, emotion, movement), the horses will respond accordingly.
Horses move towards safety and comfort
When we are embodied and present, congruent and aligned, horses are drawn to us. Our energy feels comfortable, and they can trust us. This is not necessarily about being happy and relaxed – it is all about being real (warts and all)! If for example, a horse walks away, you might be invited to check in and notice what you were thinking or feeling. You may have momentarily disconnected (as in distracted or not present), or you had a thought that was not aligned with your heart or gut, and the horse responds accordingly. Conversely, if you reconnect, or feel alignment, the horse will move closer, or show some other sign of your energy movement and coherence.
Horses’ intimate space boundary is 5 meters
Our intimate space boundary – the distance we allow only certain people into – and extends about 1 meter out from our physical bodies. (We have all had that feeling – especially in tight congested spaces, where we feel uncomfortable because a stranger is in our intimate space.) A horse’s intimate space boundary extends out about 5 meters from his or her body. So without being very close to a horse, we can still be in their intimate space. This is useful to remember when a horse moves away from us slightly – we may still be in his or her intimate space. Just like us, they are positioning themselves where they feel most safe and comfortable.
Horses work to restore equilibrium to your nervous – for the safety of the whole
When a member of a herd has a dysfunctional nervous system – as in feeling distressed, this horse is a liability to the herd because he or she is not present enough to sense potential danger and alert the herd. Consequently, the herd will work on the distressed horse’s nervous system to bring him or her back into equilibrium. They do this through co-regulation with their own nervous system.
We see the horses drop their heads and slow their breathing down when a person is feeling anxiety to slow their own heart rate down – this causes the person’s heart rate to entrain with theirs and it slows down also, and the person begins to feel calm. When the person is feeling low, flat, or depressed, the horses will increase the speed of their breathing which in turn causes their hearts to beat faster. The person’s heart rate will speed up as it entrains with the horses’ and the person will experience more vitality and energy. The outcome of both of these responses is to bring the person’s nervous system back into equilibrium.
Energy blocks and discordant energy
Sometimes discordant energy is trapped in our bodies – this could be old, emotional, unresolved stories, illness, injury, trauma or chronic stress. Energy is supposed to move. In the case of emotions, they are meant to be felt to complete their expression. When they are ignored or suppressed, they show up as pain and discomfort. Over time, suppressed emotions can cause serious discomfort and illness. Chronic stress keeps the body in a fight / flight state where the body is constantly prepared for a high energy response. Incomplete defense responses – including chronic stress, (i.e. instinctive movements that the body would have made to protect you) are compressed energy stored in the body. It takes energy to hold and block energy. Whatever the cause, suppressed and blocked energy causes discomfort, illness and dis-ease, and needs to be released for the body to return to a state of balance.
The horses can sense where the energy is trapped, and often work to unblock it and also help you release discordant energy. Even if you feel intense energy in the body, with the support of the horses, we work in a way that is gentle and supportive.
Trauma involves a boundary violation. As you engage with the horses, you learn to set or restore healthy physical, mental, and emotional boundaries, which are linked to a felt sense of self-respect and self worth. You learn to align with your inner wisdom, take appropriate action, say no, speak up, or ask for what you need.
Being social mammals like us, horses are natural relationship partners for the establishment of connection and attunement, and are also non-threatening and non-judgmental. With horses, you experience being accepted for who you are.
A new baseline
Corrective experiences felt by the entire body establishes a new inner baseline of reference and regulation. The implicit memory – that part that organizes perception, feelings, and behavior is ‘rewritten’ with a new story. In a state of equilibrium our health improves and our thinking brain functions with greater clarity.