"It has been clinically documented that just being around horses changes human brainwave patterns. We calm down and become more centred and focused when we are with horses," he says. "Horses are naturally empathetic. The members of the herd feel what is going on for the other members of the herd."
EFL is part of a rapidly growing industry in which trained professionals and horses partner to foster healing and to provide learning and therapeutic growth opportunities for people... that can often be mutually beneficial for the animals as well. Individuals that can benefit from EFL include but are not limited to: those struggling with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, autism, the developmentally challenged and those in residential or recovery programs can all benefit from this type of therapy.
Naturally intimidating to many, horses are large and powerful. This creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. Working alongside a horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides wonderful insight when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life. Like humans, horses are social animals, with defined roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods; an approach that works with one horse won’t necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning and act as mirrors into our lives.
Horses have much to teach us about leadership, authentic communication, connection, body language, healthy and flexible boundaries, collaboration, assertiveness, asking permission, and “checking our egos at the door”, in order to build relationships with them (and with others) that are based on mutual respect and trust. For people and horses that have both experienced trauma and abuse at the hands of other humans, learning to trust again through bonding and respectful relationships in addition to healthy boundaries and non-judgmental acceptance can be a powerful experience.
Horses can tell when humans are being incongruent or dishonest with themselves – like when we act in inauthentic ways to cover up undesirable feelings or when our body language, actions and emotions are not congruent – and they respond accordingly, providing powerful feedback about our assumptions, beliefs, emotions, behavior, insecurities and inner conflicts. Patient, gentle and forgiving, they are powerful mirrors that help us to notice ourselves and our blind spots without judgment or criticism.
The size of horses and their ability to fully express their inner drives and natural instincts help us to accept and master those parts of ourselves we fear the most. The ability to respectfully and with clear intention ask a horse to do something, such as move a certain way or respect one’s boundaries, can provide a sense of empowerment, courage, and confidence that may have been a foreign concept previously.
While each session is completely customizable and dictated by the parameters of your experience and needs, ultimately you will spend time in the presence of or working directly with horses on the ground or in the herd in a variety of different reflective, active and experiential activities. Equine-facilitated learning teach you to slow down and ground yourself in the present in order to gain self-awareness and insight, shift old patterns, transform limiting core beliefs and learn new ways of being and doing that are more congruent, authentic and empowered .
So many horses, like people, are in need of a second chance at life and at finding happiness. Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary in Cave Creek provides that and more. We are able to use these amazing animals with their own life stories of trauma, abuse and neglect to create healing in our own lives. Today the ranch is home to usually around 30 horses from all walks of life. Each and every horse that walks through their gates, are promised a happy, healthy, and healing forever home. Visit the horses at tierramadrehorsesanctuary.org.
Types of Sessions Individual, family and groups. You may enjoy single experiences or use sessions as a powerful transformational adjunct to ongoing therapy.