The symmetry of two living creatures interacting so each becomes a whole, is truly magical. – Frank Bell, Horse Whisperer
What is it about horses that bring healing to the broken places in people? Maybe we cannot pinpoint the exact thing that makes the equine-human connection so powerful, but therapists the world over recognize this power. Therapeutic horseback riding has been developed specifically to teach riding skills to people with disabilities. This type of therapy is beneficial for children and adults who present with any of a wide range of cognitive, physical, and emotional conditions. Equine therapy is employed to help children with a history of abuse, children with autism, and even those who are rehabilitating from severe cancer treatment. Colorado has many programs available in several locations.
In an equine-assisted activity (EAA) program, a certified or specially-trained riding instructor teaches a person with a disability how to ride a horse. However, working with horses can provide more than just riding skills – participants can also learn companionship, responsibility, confidence, leadership, and vocational and educational skills. Riding a horse provides a unique and sometimes profound activity which builds physical strength, creates a non-threatening social environment, and can help an emotionally wounded person develop a horse-rider relationship that fosters healing.
Building a relationship with an animal is very rewarding in many respects; for a person with an emotional, social or psychological disability, the trust and loyalty of an animal demonstrates to them how important they are; they may then apply this newly-acquired self-esteem to personal relationships. Learning to handle a horse may also help a person feel in control of their situation, since in dealing with horses there is a direct relationship between action and reaction. The sometimes unpredictable nature of animals also creates a real-life environment in which the rider can confront their fears, and adjust to situations beyond their control, which can be a life-changing experience for those who feel their whole life is out of their control.
Maybe you don’t see yourself, or your special-needs child as a horseman; but, you may be surprised by what a horse can give you. And you may be even more surprised by what you learn to give.