Equine Therapy: How Horses Make Sense of it All

Lisa Kaufman Kelly, Ph.D., EAGALA Certified (CA)
Allison M. Davis, LMFT, CADCII, EALAGA Certified (CA), & Founder of Rethink Industries
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” ~ Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill acknowledged the power of the horse-human relationship long before equine guided programs existed, and as horsemen and women, we have experienced firsthand the sensitive nature of horses. The development of equine guided programs has enhanced the mental health field–not only in how practitioners analyze situations, but also by allowing them to make connections and find new solutions with their clients who suffer from myriad disorders, from anxiety to PTSD, through personal and physical experiences.
The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) explains that, “to evade predators, horses have evolved to be extremely sensitive to their environment. They instinctively analyze and react to our body language and other nonverbal cues. As a result, we are able to gain insight into our own nonverbal communication and behavior patterns. These horses become the focal point in client-driven discovery and analysis”. This process brings up things that may otherwise not be uncovered in traditional therapeutic settings. Horses essentially reflect what is ‘under the skin’ sincerely, with no agenda or prejudice.
There are several factors to keep in mind when looking for a retreat that meets your personal or professional needs. You want to be sure that the program can be tailored to those needs and to your vision with integrity and authenticity. You also want to be in a safe and serene environment where the horses are great company, and that the experience will be meaningful and lasting. A participant doesn’t need to have experience or knowledge of horses to participate in equine guided programs as all the work is done on the ground.
How, then, does the therapeutic process begin? Because it is client centered and solution oriented, a thorough assessment is completed of the current patterns of behavior, perceptions, and performance levels of the individual, couple, or family. The information shared in the pre-assessment is used to tailor the content of the sessions to achieve the desired outcome. The horse will mirror and respond to a participant’s inner state of mind, physical state of presence, body language, and the quality of communication used.  The session consists of discussions and debriefings which allow for comprehensive self-evaluation and the development of healthy life skills and awareness.

As an equine assisted psycho-therapist (Davis), I have participants draw analogies between events that occur with horses in the arena to those situations that occur in their own lives, making for more relevant learning experiences. Because horses have hierarchical roles like familial and social roles, we can readily translate those analogies to reality.”
Other beneficial programs include Equine Guided Leadership Retreats. These are retreats that teach participants skills to help them discover their authentic leadership style. As a person who has worked with large and small groups in different professions (Kaufman-Kelley), I have learned that a successful leader will engage the dedication of others to a common end; the importance of being able to influence and move others, directing hearts and minds, thus producing a desirable result for the group and organization. My love of horses has lead me to become EAGALA certified and share the intuitive power of horses to help people learn more about social and emotional interactions. We often deal with emotionally intense situations, need to communicate more effectively, must inspire and drive others, and bolster our own confidence. A Dream Team Building Retreat can benefit a family, community group, non-profit organization, or a large or small business. Members learn how to become creative problem solvers, build trust, as well as understand each other’s unique talents. Horses can teach us how to accomplish all of this.
For more information on Equine Guided Programs at Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch contact Rethink Industries at http://rethinkindustries.co/service/retreats/

About the authors
Dr. Lisa Kaufman Kelly received her EAGALA certification in 2007 and then began offering equine guided leadership and teambuilding programs at Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch and Feather River College.
Allison Davis is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor, and EAGALA certified mental health specialist. She is also the founder of Rethink Industries, promoter of Rethink Retreats.

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