• Rosie Withey

Horses as teachers

Rosie Withey BHSII, explains why being around horses is such a positive experience


Time spent with horses leaves people feeling refreshed, but did you know that due to their calming presence, we can actually learn a lot from them?


Dakota and Drummer

More than ever, people are struggling with their mental health due to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic and, spending time with horses can act as an emotional reset. They are content with simply ‘being’, which can help us to get out of the mindset that we always need to be doing something, which many people struggled with during the lockdowns.


Equine facilitated learning has helped people with:


Alleviating anxiety

Horses tend to live in the moment, they don’t overthink or hold a grudge. Being around this type of energy can help us to begin to behave in a more similar way, calming our minds and helping us to become aware of unnecessary mental chatter. In these moments when the mind is quieter, we can learn to recognise whether we are listening to our true voice or if it's a false self voice dictating our actions. We can then move through negative thoughts and beliefs and be present, rather than letting worries about the past or future affect our decisions.


This can be an incredibly positive environment and mindset for those struggling with anxiety. Being in the presence of a calm horse reduces anxious arousal, because it is “a comforting reminder that danger is no longer present.” The calmness of the horse helps people become more mindful of the present moment, mirroring the behavior of the animal.


Setting boundaries

Horses make their boundaries very clear, they show their feelings when they don’t want to do something, and are quick to express their anger if they feel that another horse has crossed a boundary. Without any words at all, horses make clear when someone has crossed their boundaries. What we can learn from this is how to notice when we are being controlling, or being controlled, and find more effective and respectful ways to be in a relationship, setting clear, constant and healthy boundaries.


Identifying feelings

Horses have a unique ability to sense emotions and react accordingly. If you are angry or aggressive, some horses may become obstinate. If you are anxious, some horses may pick up on your anxiety and become skittish.


Horses are masters at teaching us about non-verbal communications, and witnessing the horse’s response promotes self-awareness and can help you identify your own feelings and energies. When you acknowledge your feelings, your body begins to calm down, and the horse will often respond in kind.


Mindfulness

Horses just are. They communicate through subtle language and energy, and can help you honour your own vulnerability. Simply being in a horse’s presence can show us how to listen to ourselves and relax into a similarly calm state of mind.


Equine facilitated learning integrates mindfulness at almost every step, helping you to connect with your true intentions, feelings and inner wisdom in the presence of horses.


Confidence and self esteem

Confidence can be enhanced as you challenge yourself to learn and master new skills. Through equine facilitated learning, many people find an improved ability to tackle new projects and challenges in a natural, non-competitive, and non-judgmental environment, which leads to improved confidence, self-assurance, and self-esteem.


It is a valuable complementary therapy

In many cases, equine facilitated learning can lead to breakthroughs where conventional therapy has no longer been effective. People who have tried other forms of coaching but are still struggling to work through their emotions sometimes find they are happier talking through their emotions in the context of a horse, or due to an increase in self awareness through working with a horse. Some people spend years talking about their problems, and this has its place, but being with a horse may help them to learn about themselves through a fresh perspective, and these can then be integrated to all aspects of life.


Friends for life

Images courtesy Hooves to Hounds:

Dakota Kane and Minimus, Sophia Chambers and Star



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