Why horses you ask?
Horses and Humans: The adoption of the horse was one of the single most important discoveries for early human societies, aiding in the development and advancement of human culture and civilization. Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC and horses have been in our lives ever since. In the past, horses were used for transportation, as beasts of burden, for warfare and for raw materials and food. Today, for the most part, horses are used for leisure activities, sports, and working purposes. Most importantly, through ancient times and modern times, humans have recognized and revered our special emotional and spiritual connection to horses.
Documented research shows positive physical and psychological results from humans interacting with horses. Some of these include reduced blood pressure and heart rate, lower levels of stress, decreased feelings of tension, anxiety, anger and hostility, as well as increased levels of beta-endorphins, and beneficial feelings of self-esteem, empowerment, patience and trust.
In addition, the horse ranch provides a relaxing atmosphere. Getting out of the home or office, and into nature, creates change and interrupts old patterns. People who have difficulty relating to other human beings, will often develop a bond with the horses that can be used to learn to identify with humans. Many times at the ranch people open up in ways that would never occur in a clinical environment.
The Nature of Horses: Horses are prey animals that live in highly social groups in which they have defined roles. Similar to humans there are leaders and subordinates, and they live by the herd’s social rules. Horses primarily communicate non-verbally and, therefore, excel at reading body language. They are instinctively, keenly aware of their surroundings and of the emotions and actions their herd. That is how they have evolved to discover danger and to survive. Thanks to their sensitivity horses have the innate ability to perceive the slightest changes in people, places or things and they excel at reading the body language and emotions of those with whom they interact.
In addition, each horse has a distinct personality of it’s own. Horses display characteristics that can easily be related to, and compared to, that of people. Typically humans readily interpret the horse’s behavior providing vast opportunities for metaphorical learning. This gives the participant a way to “play out” and mirror their life experiences while interacting with the horses.
Because of their nature, horses are particularly well suited to assist with psychotherapy, emotional growth and learning. They are extremely sensitive creatures that sense emotions and intentions in people that the person may not even be aware of themselves. They can read a person’s body language and emotions and they will respond instinctively. This provides immediate feedback when someone is processing their thoughts and feelings which creates an ideal environment for practicing mindfulness. The horses’ responses give the facilitators information about the participant’s current patterns and motivates change to new ones. The lesson learned is that if they change themselves, the horses respond differently.
As Winston Churchill said: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.“