Like humans, horses are social beings.  As prey animals, they have a heightened awareness of their surroundings

which allows them to non-verbally respond immediately to humans in a manner which provides honest and

profound feedback.  This makes horses uniquely appropriate for experiential therapy and learning.  The presence of a

horse cannot be missed!  The way we interact with a horse can serve as a great metaphor for how we approach relationships and adversity in our day to day lives.  Clients often relate their behaviors and feelings to the way they observe the horses interacting with their environment and herd.  Horses respond honestly and directly to the client’s external behaviors and internal states.  The client is able to experience immediate feedback from the horse about

how he or she communicates and relates with others, how he or she manages adversity, and how he or she may

use successful tactics learned at the barn to overcome struggles at home, in school, at work, etc.  

Horses & Trauma

Utilizing Equine Assisted

Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning (EAP/EAL) for clients with Trauma is especially powerful.  Horses, being prey animals, are highly sensitive to their surroundings – safety is their priority.  They operate from the “Survival Brain” – responding with Fight, Flight, or Freeze. 

Sound familiar? 

A horse’s brain is very similar to a traumatized person’s brain.  Horses provide the opportunity to explore an individual’s perceptions, their unique way of practicing meaningful assertiveness, boundary setting, regulating emotions, building trust,

and gaining confidence.  These same skills are essential in building

human relationships. 

What do EAL and EAP

have to offer?

  • A concrete experience for the client and therapeutic team to use as a foundation for discussion

  • An opportunity for the therapist to gain valuable insight into how the client interprets stimuli and cues from his or her surroundings 

  • The ability to identify thinking errors more immediately and correct cognitive distortions in the moment