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Young People and Horses
Help for issues with young people
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Horses can help in groups
With the ever-changing fast-paced world of technology, we are left with a deep desire to recapture the raw emotional quality of life that has been masked by quick fixes, instant gratification, disposable attitudes and disconnected social interaction for far too long.
Throughout our history it was the horse who carried us through troubled times. And now, as we embark on a journey of re-awakening, it is the horse who is reemerging as a new partner in life ─ changing the game to one of hope, self-discovery and happiness.
These shifting attitudes are driving us to seek alternative ways to reclaim our heritage and open our minds and hearts to a more meaningful way of living for a better future.
A LONG HISTORY TOGETHER
Horses are said to have done more to change human history than any other domestic animal. After 6000 years of co-evolution between predator and prey, each has influenced the genetic makeup of the other. Relationships or interactions with horses have varied throughout history depending on human needs, but it is the horses' ability to carry a human that has had the greatest impact on their relationship with man.
Demographic data released by United States Department of Agriculture show a 14% decline of farms and ranches with horses. Although the lack of land and the relatively high cost of horse care may reduce the possibility of ownership for many people, the availability of riding establishments and new programs means that horses are no longer restricted to those who can afford them.
HORSES AS THERAPY
The evolution from work horse to sport horse to therapy horse is helping everyday people reconnect with the horse in a powerful way. The use of horses is gaining popularity through equine assisted therapy programs for individuals with physical or mental disabilities. Organizations such as the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) and Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) incorporate therapeutic riding and/or psychoanalytical discovery, wonderful opportunities for those who need a unique learning experience within the presence of a licensed clinical professional.
Now, much like yoga, reiki and other self-discovering modalities, a variety of equine learning programs are re-emerging as a way to reconnect with our inner selves, relax, and find a path to self-enrichment.
Equine Guided Education (EGE) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) programs are novel approaches of utilizing the acceptance, empathic understanding, animal instincts and intuition of horses to provide a safe, yet honest, reflection of life.
EMPOWERING SELF DISCOVERY
Through facilitated interactive exercises with a trained instructor, equine growth and learning programs are tailored to specific groups or individuals who are looking for new ways to gain profound insights into their heart, find clarity, heal old traumas, and discover life’s purpose. “Being in the presence of a horse can be surprisingly therapeutic,” says Felisa Holmberg, founder of Horses Hope for Humanity, who facilitates this unique work with horses in Humptulips and Ocean Shores, Washington.
As a certified RolferTM and EGE Facilitator, she incorporates a variety of healing modalities, teaming up with horses to help people of all ages. She believes that freedom comes from truth. Because horses have no attachments or judgments they have a way of uncovering truths, leaving it up to you to decide how to embrace it. Her unique program helps people discover their true passion and purpose in life while working though inner conflicts and states of unhappiness.
While sitting in the arena, a client builds a board using items that represent areas in their life they find challenging. The horse will engage in the board, and react to it, offering real feedback as a result of communications that are stuck or not flowing as they should. Step by step the team identifies what it is the client wants to accomplish and what is needed to make it happen.
Through this horse assisted model and other experiential learning activities a person becomes very clear on what it is that they want to accomplish in life and identifies the barriers that hold them back. Old trauma, fear of failure, and judgments from others are often uncovered in the process. One of the biggest things Holmberg sees happen is people letting go of expectations from others and stepping up and owning what’s right for them, deep in the heart of the soul. “Horses instinctively perceive, and react to, our deepest feelings and fears,” says Holmberg. “They mirror our subconscious in unexpected ways.”
POWERFUL MESSENGERS Those who have experienced the spiritual nature of the horse recognize and understand the power of horses to influence people in incredible ways. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful messengers. Developing relationships, training, horsemanship instruction, and caring for horses naturally affect people profoundly. The horse’s non-verbal communication and reflective nature allow for self-discovery and awareness in the moment. By telling their story through the animals, those suffering from emotional distress can find solutions, free from bias and judgment. Intimidating to many, horses are large and powerful. This creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence while providing the benefits of work ethic, responsibility, assertiveness, communication, and healthy relationships. “When dealing with intimidating and challenging situations in life, working alongside a horse can create confidence and provide wonderful insights to our problems,” says Holmberg. Like humans, horses are social animals, with defined roles within their herds. They find safety with their herd mates and have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. Sometimes they will be gregarious and playful while other times can seem stubborn and defiant. These impromptu changes in behavior provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning, an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups. In an era when immediate gratification and the “easy way” are the norm, horses require people to be engaged in physical and mental work to be successful, a valuable lesson in all aspects of life.
TEACHING OUR YOUTH
Many people involved with equine therapy say that horses seem to have an affinity for healing effects on youth. Equine therapy uses horses as a means to provide metaphoric experiences to promote emotional growth.
On a beautiful 60-acre preserved farm in in South Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania, the Manito Life Center has been working with at-risk children for over 14 years. Founded by M. Lisa Schadt, RN, the center offers children many fun and challenging opportunities for growth and healing. The farm has been preserved with the mission of helping children by providing them with wholesome avenues of self-expression.
Manito's EAGLE (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Experience) program is typically one session per week for 7 to 10 weeks, and works with 6 youth or adults per group. The center anticipates partnering with an agency of social services in 2014, thus expanding its outreach to the community. “The horses provide an excellent way for troubled youth to gain coping skills when they are otherwise therapy resistant,” says Schadt. “Children experiencing trauma are especially vulnerable and can benefit immensely from the interactions with Manito's horses, peaceful, natural environment, and trained staff.” “Horses are an awe-inspiring, beautiful embodiment of nature and seem to connect us with our roots, with something deep and very meaningful. I believe this to be a very important part of the process.” Because horses have the ability to mirror the moods of people and are exquisitely responsive to their environment, analogy and metaphor may often be used in this therapeutic experience, says Schadt. For instance, a client may state that the horse is stubborn – when, in fact, the client may be stubborn and resistant. This requires the client to get outside of his/her self, to respond to the horse differently, perhaps with affection and attention. The result is that the horse will respond in a similar fashion. For many kids, the experience of being on a farm and having access to the world of horses is out of reach. Fun and enjoyment can come out of working with horses. Activities are very hands-on and kids don't feel they are involved in a therapy session.
AND SO IT BEGINS
Horses are being introduced in a variety of programs worldwide, as public awareness of the benefits of equine assisted activities continues to be heightened. While the research is ongoing, equine assisted therapies are continuing to gain credibility within the health and medical communities as a viable alternative method of healing and wellness. Part of the reason this approach is effective may be that many people experiencing depression or anxiety find it difficult to talk about their problems. Once outside in the open air with animals who are non-judgmental, the situation often changes. The age-old relationship between man and horse has made the horse one of our most revered and fascinating animal partners. His role as equine partner, teacher and spiritual guide brings new purpose to his existence, once again transporting us into a bright new future.
Listen to a radio interview with Felisa Holmberg on blog talk radio here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/holistichorseradio/2014/03/19/horses-can-heal-the-human-for-humanity-sake