Many of us have heard of guide or working dogs, but what about working, guiding horses?
Using animals to assist in therapy has been around for ages, as far back as ancient Greece. But as a formal practice, animal therapy is a fairly new concept. A growing number of psychological professionals recognize the therapeutic benefits of animal contact. A recent development is using horses in the treatment of patients with autism, behavioral problems, addictions, depression, and Asperger’s, to name a few.
At Wevorce, three of us went through a typical session at Adkins Equine Assisted Therapy to sample this new type of treatment. According to the facilitators, Lorn Adkins, a Mental Health Professional, and his son, John Adkins, an Equine Specialist, “Equine assisted therapy is an experiential model for creating change. The program utilizes the natural relationship between horses and people to create insights for individuals, families and groups. The horses help us to see ourselves, our relationships, and our issues more clearly.”
We really didn’t know what to expect. Therapy with horses was a new concept. Some programs may include riding or grooming horses, but the session we attended did not. Getting saddlesore was never a risk — all experiences and exercises were conducted with our feet on the ground. It’s easy to forget how big a horse is until you are standing right next to one, so we were okay with the “no riding” aspect, or to be more accurate, relieved might be the better word choice.
It is because of a horse’s intimidating size that participants are given the opportunity to establish trust with the animal first. Horses mirror a person’s emotions and respond accordingly, giving you the chance to learn about yourself and providing immediate insight to the trained professional who is observing the human-animal interaction.
Horses also have a calming effect on people; just being around them can reveal things that may not come out in traditional therapy sessions. This learning-from-experience kind of therapy is fun, different, and something you’re not likely to forget anytime soon.
As the three of us worked together to complete the assigned tasks, we were amazed at what we learned about our personalities, work ethics, and relationships to one another. We immediately saw the potential that a program like this could offer families going through the difficulties and transition of divorce.
There is something magical about horses, especially when their power and strength is harnessed to promote a gentle healing of the mind. Like us, horses are emotional beings, and their ability to show us what we cannot otherwise see is unexplainably remarkable. These magnificent animals are a gift, allowing for growth and development in unique ways.
We thank Lorn and John Adkins for allowing us to share this experience. But, from the bottom of our hearts, we also thank the wonderful horses we were privileged to work with.