This is the second part of an article that is being published for the first time on Habitatforhorses.org. You can view Part I here. This is being presented in several parts as it goes into depth on how rescued horses are vital to equine assisted therapy. Habitat for Horses offers equine assisted therapy program with rescued horses at their new facility in South East Texas. Contact us at 409-935-0277 for more information. ~ HfH
Part II – Rescued Horses Perfect Match for Equine Therapy Programs
By Maryann Peachey-Warren
Horse Harbor Foundation, Inc.
With a growing number of certified equine therapy instructors around the country needing facilities with appropriate horses to practice their profession, horse rescuers almost anywhere can develop partnerships that will allow them to explore opportunities in this field. We are always willing to share our experience here at Horse Harbor with anyone interested because America’s horses also need more opportunities than ever for a productive life.
In conducting research into the benefits of equine assisted therapy for individuals with disabilities, insights from the book Animals in Translation is invaluable. Author Dr. Temple Grandin, herself autistic, addresses the reasons that animals are so beneficial to people with disability. An animal scientist, for whom horses played an important role in her own life,
Dr. Grandin charted undocumented territory on how animals think, feel, and act. She states, “Animals in Translation comes out of the forty years I’ve spent with animals. It is different from any other book I’ve read about animals, mostly because I’m different from every other professional who works with animals. Autistic people can think the way animals think…Autism is kind of a way station on the road from animals to humans.”
Dr. Grandin identifies an important aspect about how the relationship between animals and people can provide an avenue for therapy for individuals with disability. If autistic people can relate to animals because of how their brain works, we can only imagine what is taking place in their minds. Several autistic children in our equine assisted therapy program at Horse Harbor have displayed this amazing sense of animal understanding. Once not able to even stand in the barn for more than two minutes, one young boy is now having prolonged and elaborate conversations with one of our horses. These conversations are indecipherable even to his parents, but we know that whatever he is discussing it’s not with us but the horse. And the horse, an old-timer nearing 35 named Ace, stands quietly with his head bowed, seeming to pay close attention. How can we possibly analyze what is taking place between them? All we can say in general is that the child is communicating for the first time in his life with another creature and that’s a good thing.
In the 2002 article, “The miracle of equine therapy”, M. Zugich describes how this takes place, “To test the effectiveness, EAT (Equine Assisted Therapy) offers a unique opportunity for the therapeutic use of metaphors. For example, a client’s interpretation of a horse’s movements, behaviors, and reactions determines the meaning of the metaphor and, as such, provides a portal for the resolution of unfinished business by bringing forth and addressing transference reactions in the here-in-now for therapy. Horses can also give accurate and unbiased feedback, mirroring both the physical and emotional states of the participant during exercises, providing clients with an opportunity to raise their awareness and to practice congruence between their feelings and behaviors.” This relationship is critical to understand when working with clients and addressing their unique individual needs.
Further analysis of this study identifies the implication for new research that supports equine assisted therapy to generate evidence of the physical, emotional and/or cognitive benefits of such therapy for individuals with disability. Horses elicit a range of emotions and behaviors in humans, which can be used as a catalyst for personal awareness and growth. “The consistent, repetitive movement of the horse stimulates the sensory-motor system of the client, giving the nervous system a template from which to build its physical and cognitive responses writes B. L. Macauley in 2003.
Part III Coming Soon