I have been fortunate to spend my entire life in the presence of horses. Caretaking horses takes up much of my time, and in that, I get to slow down into "horse time."
It is a relationship that is so much like a dance — the wisp of their tails, the look in their eyes, their ears that listen with curiosity, their lips that can pick up the tiniest blade of grass, the movement of the breath through their nostrils, and the relationships with herd-mates. Horses have taught me to live from a place of authenticity, mindfulness, and an open heart.
The dance of the horse starts from the initial greeting. Non-verbal communication, movement, and intention promotes connection. In Equine-Assisted Therapy, the horse becomes a cotherapist, providing instant feedback to humans and inviting us to be present and practice a beginner's mind.
Horses have many qualities that we experience as humans. As prey animals, horses are acutely aware of their environment and react quickly to perceived danger with flight, fight, and freeze responses. They respond honestly, directly and without judgment to human emotions and energy.
Through gentle grooming, leading and interaction with the horse — sometimes accompanied by meditation, yoga or art — clients practice empathy, assertive communication and emotional regulation. Building trust with the grace, power, and honesty of the horse can provide a bridge for healing that may be more effective than verbal communication for clients who struggle with "talk therapy".
Part of the session was painting a symbol on "Roxy" that represented the relationship with the horse. Roxy was loose when we brought out the paint. She never once walked away. She so beautifully stood there in the shade surrounded by the ladies. It started out with a mindful walk in the pasture with Roxy. She showed us grazing and pausing to look around the environment. There was love, connection, power, and light. We became part of her herd.
Pause for a moment, feel the air on your skin, take deep breaths, and notice what else is happening both in the internal and external landscape of you. Spend time with a horse and possibilities are sure to arise.
Sierra Ohrel, LPC
Sierra Ohrel, LPC, is the Clinical Director at Mirasol Recovery Centers. She has a Master's in Counseling Psychology and Equine Assisted Mental Health and is an Advanced Riding Instructor and Equine Specialist with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship.Subscribe to Our Newsletter