Equine-assisted psychotherapy involves the use of horses in the treatment of psychological issues. Combining therapy with specific, equine activities, EAP allows clients to work through unfinished business, relieve psychological distress, live more fully in the present, and change destructive patterns in behavior. It involves team work among the licensed therapist, the horse professional, the client and the horse.
Horses bring out a range of emotions and behaviors in humans. Activities with horses are set up to mimic real-life issues, allowing client and therapist to see problems and find solutions that lead to personal awareness and growth.
Horses have a system of communication: walking away, ignoring, being distracted, eating at the wrong time, sleeping, biting, constant state of alertness, fear and need to escape when they feel threatened or frightened. These are common horse behaviors to which clients can relate and respond, so the horses serve as a tool and a mirror to allow clinical issues to surface.
A client’s interpretation of the horse’s behavior and body language elicits reactions or “transference reactions” similar to how they would react to humans, helping to recognize unhealthy patterns and enact new behaviors.
Clients are provided the opportunity to raise their awareness and recognize patterns between their feelings and their behaviors. Horses mirror the emotional and physical states of the clients during the activities and give unbiased and accurate feedback. Clients learn new communication skills as they bond with and learn to develop a relationship with a horse.
TODAY's resident animal expert Jill Rappaport meets up with horse trainer, Buck Brannaman, whose natural approach to conditioning has revolutionized the equestrian world.