“Horse brings with it new journeys. It will teach you how to ride into new directions to awaken and discover your own freedom and power”. (Ted Andrews, Animal Speak)
I could wax lyrical for hours about the benefits of spending time with horses and I could point you in the direction of countless research articles extolling the virtues of therapeutic riding, equine assisted therapy for mental health, for neurological conditions, autism and so on. We owe so much to these amazing creatures and the symbolism of the horse features in cultural myths and legends the world over.
When I began my personal journey of healing, it began with a horse called Ben, who entered my life about 18 years ago. He was a large, powerful, young and inexperienced horse, and I was a small, romantic, yet old-enough-to know-better human, who was going through some big life changes. It was quite frankly a disaster waiting to happen for both of us. My ‘journey of disillusionment’ began quite early on in our relationship, with him launching me into the air and then galloping off into the distance, less than a week after I bought him. That really was a huge wake-up call for me and, strange though it may sound, I can never thank him enough for opening my eyes to the ‘way of the horse’ and to what it means to begin to really face your fears and begin to trust a 500kg animal with your life.
Through my relationship with Ben and other horses, I’ve learned about energy and about true connection and about walking your talk. I have also learned that horses are not ‘mirrors of our emotions’, as some might say. To describe them as such is simplistic, in my opinion, and implies that they bring nothing to the therapeutic relationship. In fact, they come with their own issues, and expectations of interacting with us, which may differ from ours. What they are very good at is reading us. Because they are prey animals, their very survival depends on being highly attuned to their environment. They read our body language and our energy and they will react to it. They are wonderful teachers about life if we are willing to listen.
I am trained in the LEAP method of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP). I don’t call what I do psychotherapy because I’m an occupational therapist, but this qualification is a recognition that I have achieved a level of skill in facilitating therapeutic work with horse-human interactions.
My personal approach has developed from this core grounding in a recognised method, together with my shamanic training, occupational therapy background, lots of reading and continuous learning and reflecting. I offer EFP only as part of a wider range of interventions and not as a stand-alone therapy. I do not teach horsemanship skills and no riding is involved. I believe that any interaction with the horses should be beneficial to them as well as to us and so, the horses are always free to join us if they wish but they will never be 'used as tools' in the therapy process.
If you are interested in finding out more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.