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For The Love Of A Horse
A benefit of equine therapy is the fact that humans and animals require no words to communicate. This opens up a line of communication that may not be breached were the patient trying to reach a traditional therapist.
One unique aspect about equine therapy is the way that these animals intuitively mirror feelings that a Veteran may be experiencing – whether or not they are aware of it. Horses are very empathetic and they may reflect sadness, angst, or discomfort back towards the person they are working with.
This can help to promote self-awareness and open-mindedness, should the person make an active effort to interpret their horse’s behavior as a reflection of their own. This feedback loop can help an individual see deeper into the patterning of their own brain, leading them to understand their emotional reactions.
A Soldier's Story
At one of our Veteran horse clinics we paired up an active duty Airman with the most gentle 18 hand high horse (6 feet from hoof to the top of the shoulder or withers as they are known) and this gentleman was maybe 5’5″ with boots on. You could feel the tension just pouring off of him and the horse was agitated because of this. His wife came over to us and said J.R. you got to help my husband he is freaking out. So I and a retired Marine went over and talked to him. We found out that he was from the Bronx and he had never even seen a horse much less be on one of this size.
We finally got him on the horse but then he was over squeezing his legs and pulling on the reigns because he thought that he was going to fall off. We showed him how to breath, and relax and once he did the horse started immediately responding to him more favorably. We took him around and showed him how to guide the horse more with his feet than with his hands and once he was comfortable we took him out on a trail ride.
By the time we came back he had an ear to ear grin on his face. We asked how he was doing, and he said, “well, I’m walking a little funny but I want to get something to drink and can I please go out on the next ride?” Ladies and gentleman, we and the horse did our job. We helped someone over come a fear that he didn’t even know that he had. He left there that day standing just a bit taller, prouder, and more confident in himself. His wife who had been riding for over 20 years was very proud of him as were we.