Now that we have talked about the logistics in Part one, let’s explore what experiential equine therapy/counseling (EEC) or equine-assisted learning is.
Talking about EEC or EAL can be like asking someone who has never tasted a watermelon to imagine the sweet, refreshing, textured melon taste. For those of you who have never been around horses, or are curious about incorporating EEC/EAL into your therapeutic journey, I invite you to go on an imaginary sensory journey with me!
You pull up to the barn on a long, bumpy, gravel road. There is a long fence line that surrounds the horses. As you walk into the barn, you notice a pine-like, earthy, and wood smell of fresh shavings in the stalls. You feel a slight breeze in the barn hallway. You see the coats of many different colored horses, and you feel the soft, yet tough and weathered leathery feel of a well-used halter. You hear and feel the gravel crunching underfoot as you enter the arena, and the sun warming your back as you orient yourself into the horse’s world.
Equine therapy pulls from many different theoretical approaches. It is not just talk therapy or just an intellectual process. It is not about the equestrian sport or horsemanship or barn maintenance. It is not a therapy that only “animal people” benefit from, it is open and welcome to anyone. No prior horse knowledge or experience is required or even recommended.
It is mindful, becoming fully engaged in the present moment with a large animal; a large animal that has a similar “trauma response,” fight, flight, freeze, as people. A large animal that communicates through body language and its 5 senses- much like us. In fact, in their world, they are prey- making their alert system finely tuned. So attuned to the world around them that they can detect a human’s heart rate from 6-8 feet away, an amazingly perspective animal that makes a great therapeutic partner!!
Written by: Catherine Virden