There’s just something magical about horses. I have felt it since I was a little girl and I still feel it today.
Growing up, I was the only equestrian in my immediate family. What my parents thought was a normal interest for a little girl soon became a obsession. As a child, I wanted everything to do with horses. I spent time in the barn mucking stalls for free, I began drawing horses every chance I got, I pretended my dogs were horses that I led through elaborate jump courses, and I would get distracted by every single horse I would see while riding in the car. Now, twenty five years later, I remain passionate about my love for these animals.
It was in college that I first learned about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I instantly knew that was my calling. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to combine my two passions, helping people and working with animals, through this unique therapy model.
I spent years telling people that someday I was going to provide therapy with horses to help people overcome their mental health struggles.
When I’d talk about it my voice would get louder, I’d speak quickly, and I could go on and on endlessly. My heart still flutters at just the thought of this dream coming true.
But beyond my personal dreams of doing this work, there is a bigger purpose. I have created this business as an opportunity to help those who have found conventional therapy models ineffective and for those who feel like nothing else is working.
Partnering with horses to provide psychotherapy allows us to see our patterned behaviors repeat right before our eyes and to make changes right then and there. It is the experiential component that drives change. The horses reflect back our emotions and we gain insight that otherwise may have been impossible to access. There’s a connection that is so deeply felt that it can be difficult to put into words.
It is at times best described as a magical experience.
I have to admit though, even I was a skeptic at first when I was learning about how it all works.
Here I was as someone who had twenty five years of horseback riding experience and nearly nine years providing therapy and yet, I entered my first EAGALA session as a client thinking, “This isn’t going to work on me.” I figured I knew too much about horse behavior and mental health to really experience what it was all about. I was SO wrong.
While gaining certification in the EAGALA model we are given the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be the client. Our instructors encouraged us to bring a real issue in our lives to work on, but to “keep it light.” I shared with my teammates my struggles adjusting to returning to work as a therapist after the birth of my second child. I shared that I had increased stress and anxiety and was not practicing good self-care. I was putting others needs far ahead of my own; something so many mothers do.
My treatment team decided to have me go spend time with the horses and to take time for myself to observe what happens.
I entered session with total skepticism. Maybe even a dose of cynicism. After all, I was at an EAGALA training with fifty people in the arena, ten of whom were playing the role as client, with only four horses to work with. I thought there was no way the horses were going to come interact with me and my first instinct was to step back and let the other participants enjoy their experience. That was the first of several “Aha!” moments for me.
When I put the needs of the other participants before mine I realized I was repeating a pattern I do in real life. I was putting the needs of others before my own.
The second that insight registered, the horses stopped, turned, and one by one came up to me for connection. Tears filled my eyes. The horses each nuzzled me briefly and then formed a line walking away from me. I intuitively followed and saw the horses take a wide curve as if they were changing course before they resumed their original path. A metaphor formed in that moment as I saw this transitional time in my life as a detour and that I would “find my path again” too. I allowed myself time to feel and process everything. The intensity of the emotions during the experience is something I’ll never forget. In that moment I became determined to share this magical work.
Now, as I am launching this business in partnership with Tally Ho Horsepark, I am so overwhelmingly excited to share this with you. While this therapy model is grounded in research and empirical evidence of its effectiveness, there is also a magic in this connection that is difficult to explain. There is such power in the gentle way our equine partners show us exactly what we need to see and I cannot wait for the opportunity to stand beside you as you feel it for yourself.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact us at 559-387-4763.