We live in an age of electronics and technology. Many of us travel, isolated in our vehicles or utilizing mass transit, all while listening to devices or reading a book or tablet. Few of us take time to connect to the strangers around us or even sitting next to us for hours on a plane separated only by an armrest. Combine this with our busy lives, and now, possibly more than ever, we feel the need to connect to others and something larger than ourselves.
For many, this is a grand statement of being part of a movement, whether political, social, or environmental. On an individual level though, large movements like these can be time consuming and few find deep, personal reward from this activity.
Enter the horse...
One only has to do a quick Google search of horses to see the impact on the development of humankind. Humans have shared their lives with horses practically since the dawn of their respective existences. Native Americans had not experienced horses until reintroduced to the Americas by the Spaniards. Today, we associate the Native American with the horse as readily as we do with the quintessential cowboy.
But for those among us struggling with feelings of disconnectedness, stress, anxiety and depression, horses offer a unique relationship and healing opportunity. Nationwide, there are numerous programs offering equine-assisted therapies. The benefits of therapeutic riding have been known since the ancient Greeks. In 1946, equine therapy was utilized in Scandinavia following an outbreak of poliomyelitis. Therapeutic riding was established in the United States and Canada with the formation of the Community Association of Riding for the Disabled (CARD).
Many characteristics of horses lend themselves to our own healing process, as they often mirror our emotions and behaviors. The nature of horses, being a prey animal, also makes them highly observant and reactive to elements in their surroundings. In a one on one environment, this interaction can connect people in ways other therapies lack.
With a horse, you have a chance to feel needed, empowered and accepted.
During equine-assisted therapy sessions, therapists incorporate various techniques depending on the nature and severity of the anxiety or depression. Main techniques used are cognitive therapy, practicing activities, activity scheduling, play therapy, storytelling and talk therapy.
The oft misattributed quote, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man,” rings true throughout time.
Lisa El-Ramey is owner/operator of Wellington Insider Tours. Wellington Insider Tours offers guided trips to experience the Wellington, FL based Winter Equestrian Festival, Global Dressage Festival, and International Polo. Ms. El-Ramey is a life-long equestrian, trainer and instructor at her own Oak Hammock Farm, located in Loxahatchee, FL. ■