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Hoof Prints on the Heart
The Doctor Will See You Now:
Unlike many traditional forms of healthcare, this provider has four legs, a flowing mane and tail and a soft welcoming muzzle. Instead of a cold, crowded waiting room, the receiving area is a warm and fuzzy barn filled with quiet nickers welcoming you to come in and explore your mind in an entirely new and unfamiliar way. With their large kind eyes and curious lips, horses are, by many accounts, the best healers. Naturally social animals, horses provide unconditional acceptance, friendship, companionship and love. They also release the calming and bonding hormone, oxytocin, and just by their mere touch, horses have an innate ability to cure what ails us.
Throughout history, anecdotal evidence has supported the idea that animals can be "healing”. Horses in particular, with their selfless desire to please humans and their consistent non-judgmental demeanor, offer safety and stability in a world that is sometimes filled with chaos and confusion.
Ask anyone who has ever had a relationship with a horse and they will tell you, The Best Therapists Have Four Legs!
Horses and Humans as Partners on the Healing Journey:
By nature, horses are prey animals. They are also herd animals and are instinctively drawn to exist in trusted groups. It is this inherent ability of the horse, to make split second decisions regarding the safety of a situation,that makes them ideal partners when working alongside trained human therapists. Though there is very little talking during equine therapy, there is constant communication throughout the entire session. This is because horses have the ability to mirror our true emotions, perceptions and intentions, and to give both the participant and the therapist automatic feedback on how the client views the world, in-the-moment. They do this through non-verbal cues with their ears, eyes, noses, tails, hooves and other subtle, or sometimes more obvious, body language. The therapist remains quiet for most of the session, and is there to help the participant check-in and process anything that may come up as the horse does his work.
Horses live in the present:
They do not believe you when you lie to them about how you feel. They also do not judge you or offer you advice when you tell them what is really going on in your life. In the counseling field, this term is called, “congruence”. Horses feel most comfortable when the humans they are with are congruent with their thoughts, emotions and body language. To a horse, that feels real and safe. Many people who seek out this type of approach have learned to guard their emotions, and have armed themselves with a protective layer of defense mechanisms to help them navigate the stressors and complexities of every day life. Horses, with their commanding presence and curious, often playful personalities, have the ability to slowly offer participants a safe and trusted partner to which they can reveal their true selves and begin the process of breaking down these barriers to becoming whole. All emotions are welcome in horse therapy! The key is to be honest with yourself and to understand what the horse is telling you throughout the process of getting there.
How Does it Work?
Hoof Prints On The Heart is honored to offer group and individual Equine Assisted Activity and Therapy (EAAT) sessions in a safe, caring supportive and natural environment. Most sessions involve ground-work only, though each session is custom-tailored to address participant’s individual, personal, short and long term goals, and involves the participation of a horse or horses. Session designs focus on education about equine psychology and behavior, as well as participant self-awareness. The Hoof Prints On The Heart EAAT program is an alternative way to learn and grow, and assists participants in exploring new ways to face challenges that may result from serious trauma, or common every day stressors. Each session is unique, but some sample designs include an introduction to basic safety and horse care, equine-based grounding techniques, mindfulness, horsemanship education, leading, grooming, and trail walks. Some of the skill building areas that our program focus on include resilience, conscious intentions, creative approaches to solving problems, relationship and social skills, self-confidence, self awareness, self-acceptance, trust, assertiveness, grounding, and mindfulness of the present moment. In addition to helping our participants, Hoof Prints on the Heart gives many horses an opportunity to have a purpose long after their previous career ends.
Do I need Prior Horse Experience
in order to Participate?
No. Many of the people who seek out this alternative form of therapy have tried traditional treatment methods, and have not found the symptom relief that they are looking for. Though they have no prior experience with horses, these participants often have a love of animals and a desire to learn about how EAAT works. From the person who is meeting a horse for the first time, to a life-long horse professional, EAAT can offer a new way to see the world, and yourself, in-the-moment, through the eyes of a horse.