You probably have lots of questions for us...
What is Counselling with horses?
Counselling with horses is like regular counselling or psychotherapy that you might attend in rooms or private practice. In our work at Earthhorse, the difference is that horses act as co-therapists alongside the trained counsellors. They do this through their response to us by their subtle body language and empathy for people.
Is it necessary to ride or to have horse handling experience?
No, neither. This works at the level of authentic communication, not at the level of skill. Riding is not an aspect of the work, although sitting astride a horse and being led at a walk may sometimes be used for a particular purpose, but only if you are comfortable with that suggestion. If this work sparks an interest in riding, we recommend specialist teachers in your area who can help with that.
Why does therapy work with horses rather than say, dogs or cats?
Dogs and cats, indeed any animal, can provide therapy of many kinds, but horses offer something unique through their ability to communicate complexity in the herd — behavior that has remained essentially intact even though they have been domesticated for thousands of years.
What actually happens in a session?
A number of experiences are facilitated, including observing herd behavior, meeting a horse within the herd, following through specific tasks with a horse such as grooming or leading while working on a specific thought or feeling, asking the horse to work around obstacles or props, taking a “question” to a horse, working with a horse at liberty, working with imagery, and in some cases sitting astride a horse (but not riding in the normal sense).
How does working with horses assist with my counselling?
Observing and experiencing how horses communicate leads to reflection on personal styles of contact, recognition of present emotional states, and provides us with models for healthy change.
How can horses “read” my emotional state?
Animals who do not rely much on verbal language, and yet are powerful communicators in a herd situation, are especially sensitive to reading the body language of any other animal (including human) by cueing into information such as sound, smell, and attitude.
Is the horse reading my mind?
It certainly seems that way sometimes, but they are simply perceptive enough to read subtle non-verbal cues and to gauge human emotions. Our thoughts and feelings are expressed in physiological reactions and body language that we do not necessarily recognise until it is reflected back or reacted to by a sentient being such as a horse.
Does the horse act as a mirror?
That’s what people often think, but no, it’s not the case. Sometimes horses reflect the state of mind of a person, but they are just as likely to act contrary to someone’s emotional state. A more useful concept is “reflective feedback”. It is how we interpret and react to the horse’s behavior — through modelling, projection, or metaphor — that offers the most useful information for this work.
What if I am afraid of horses?
There are several things to do. We have miniature horses to work with who are (of course) smaller and less intimidating, and we can also work with a fence between you and a horse. Horses still communicate meaningfully without necessarily involving physical contact, and we never expect you to do something you are uncomfortable with. Being aware of levels of fear, and learning to deal with them, is an important aspect of the learning process.
Can I do the wrong thing with a horse?
No, there is no right and wrong in this work so long as the horse is treated with respect and you feel safe. Equine assisted counselling and learning is free from judgement.
How are horses emotionally different from humans?
They live in the here and now
They are in contact with their authentic nature
They are emotionally congruent
They recover very quickly from most disturbances (They go back to grazing).
They do not judge another being.
They do not have an inner critic.
They think in pictures, rather than in language.
They live in a web of interconnectedness.