How I Help for Therapy Horses

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Therapy horses are the unsung heroes of the horse world.

With physical grit, emotional fortitude and the willingness to keep giving their all, therapy horses deserve super-hero status. These horses particularly are here to serve, to heal, to help, and to carry.

Educating people who work with therapy horses is my passion.

My mission is to educate professionals in the field of EAP/EAL and therapeutic riding to understand your horses, from their horses’ perspective. Learning how to prevent stress-related behaviors in your herd will prevent “burnout”. Keeping the therapy herd mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy gives a sense of peace and improves the quality of their life. Giving back to your horses creates a deeper bond, a stronger working relationship, and a greater sense of awareness for both human and horse. It also yields a greater appreciation of what these horses bring to therapy sessions. You as a professional are thus able to make decisions which honor these horses by utilizing your deeper sense of consciousness.

These incredible equines give you and your clients their all.

Having worked in the industry for five years with EAP/EAL and therapeutic riding, and later as a professional educator for these groups, I know how difficult it is to find good, healthy horses for these programs. Thoughts of replacing that perfect program horse should he fall prey to stress, burnout, or work-related problems are unbearable. How can you be proactive?

Equally painful is rescuing a horse from a bad situation and finding out that he really doesn’t want to work or simply doesn’t fit in the program. He has potential, but how to get him to engage in the work?

You know in your heart he won’t make a good therapy horse if something doesn’t change. What are you willing to shift in your practice that might positively influence this horse (and maybe your entire herd)?

Putting the horse first is the top priority.

Try dropping the concept that we must be in charge. Let go of your agenda and planned activities. Try trusting the horses even if that thought is uncomfortable.

We may think we are safe when we are in control.

Learning about the horses in our herd and their individual behaviors gives us more information to keep ourselves and our clients safe. When horses are given freedom, comfort, a stable herd, and a choice to engage with people, they are less risky to be around. Your horses can do their best work when you have a heightened sense of awareness and you can truly be present in your body and with the herd.

Reading and responding to small behavioral and postural shifts from our horses can become second nature. This is what keeps us safe. When horses have a choice to come to work, they are less stressed. Stressed horses tend to have pain, discomfort, or mental fatigue which results in reactive behavior and that puts people at risk for injury.

Letting go and trusting the horses and their wisdom gives you freedom in your practice. Changing how you work and honor the horses requires support.

Providing a different way of working with your herd provides them with the freedom to do their work on a level that you may not have experienced.

I’ve not seen horses burn out while working this way because the healing activities are governed by the herd, not by us. They work at their own pace in a rhythm that is balanced for the herd. They only invest their energy when the client is receptive.

Learning from our horses works!

Horses test us as if to say, “Is this authentic”? “Can I trust that this person is really different?”

Trusting in the horses’ ability to sense what’s going on with a client is the first big step. Even bigger is the idea that they know better than we do. Because we’re now respecting our horse through our physical actions, they look at us differently.

We become supporters of the process between client and horse by taking a back seat

We can become facilitators simply by listening to and observing the horse’s behavior and body language. Trust your intuition. We still have the ability to step in for the sake of horse/human safety when appropriate, but now most of our effort goes into staying out of the way and allowing the horse and client to interact.

Horses benefit when we increase our awareness and raise our level of consciousness towards them. How can we make a positive shift in how we care for these horses if we do not consider their feelings and perspective from a new level?

What would it be like to open your mind to a new way of working with therapy horses?

Seeing life from the eyes of your horse is a great way to gain perspective. Attempting to feel what he feels helps us develop empathy for them. Spending time in the pasture being with your herd tells them that you’re interested in getting to know them. Disconnect from your preconceived notion of what horse therapy “should” be. By allowing horses to do the work while finding a way to assist them in doing so maintains their vitality and balance as your treasured partner. That goal becomes your priority.

Providing your herd with ease, comfort, and peace helps them work at an optimal level and inspires you.

I would be honored to work with you and your team of therapy horses, to help you understand the needs of your herd and how to connect with them on the deepest level resulting in the highest performance. Please contact me at: horsedogmeyer@gmail.com for an appointment.

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