An increasing number of schools and programs are using equine-assisted therapy as part of their experiential programming. But what is it? Parents may say, "My child doesn't care about horses" or "he'd never go near a horse!" or "she has a horse at home so that's not important." But equine-assisted therapy is not about becoming a ranch hand or riding horses. It's about relationship with something much bigger and more powerful than your child. It's about learning respect, self-control and compassion. And it's about an amazing sense of accomplishment!
Here are three different, but overlapping, schools of thought about the emerging field of equine therapy. Their web sites will provide more detailed information about their particular philosophies.
Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association
"EAP (equine assisted psychotherapy) is a powerful and effective therapeutic approach that has an incredible impact on individuals, youth, families, and groups. EAP addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs including behavioral issues, attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, abuse issues, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs."
Equine Assisted Personal Devlopment
(EAPD) Chris Irwin http://www.chrisirwin.com
"Rather than using the horse as a therapeutic tool to elicit emotions, Chris's work involves the horse directly as a teacher. A horse's respect, trust, focus and willingness is only earned when a human learns to balance their predator-based behaviors with the horse's prey-based behaviors. What a horse needs to see in the one it willingly elects as its leader, be it horse or human, is the same character traits we want to see in ourselves. Learning to be the better horse translates literally, not just metaphorically, into becoming a better person."
The Way of the Horse: the healing potential of Horse-Human Relationships
Linda Kohanov & Kathleen Barry Ingram
"Through a holistic approach to the equestrian arts, clients explore assertiveness, stress reduction, and emotional fitness skills, strenghtening self-esteem and personal empowerment in the process. Consensus building relationship models teach people how to take the reins of any situation without lasping into the pitfalls of dominance, alientation, intimidation or victimization. Many programs also employ journaling, mindfulness techniques, expressive arts, and music to enhance intuition, multi-sensory awareness and creativity."