In his book Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal, Tim Hayes recounts several personal accounts of people whose lives were dramatically changed with the help of horses. Hayes takes us through the lives of several people all with different backgrounds and experiences, showing that the healing effects of horses has no limitations to diagnoses or experiences. In the introduction, Hayes summarizes the profound effect that horses have on people. He writes: “Horses reconnect us to the truth of our irrefutable yet fragile collective humanity” (5). Often times in the midst of pain and heartache, it feels like the world is against us and that no one shares in the pain that you are feeling. Hayes makes the argument horses bring no judgment to a relationship. Horses meet people where they are and do not expect them to fulfill any role that society expects them to play. By mirroring feelings that are exhibited, horses allow people to look at deeper motives for destructive behavior. Horses show love to those who might not know what love is and allow the space and time to heal.
The thing about change is that it is not a passive process. Hayes writes, “To change, you must see it, hear it, and accept it with a hundred percent certainty without feeling judged, criticized or shamed” (97-98). Horses mimic the feelings that you are feeling. They will back away if they sense feelings of fear, hesitation, anger or any other negative feelings. Equine therapy facilitates the relationship between people and horses and in order for a person to build a relationship with a horse, they need to work through any problems with these negative emotions because it hinders their relationship with their horse. Horses teach people to change and do so without ‘judgment, criticism or shame.’ Throughout the book, Hayes continues to refer to the idea that he talked about his introduction, that horses remind us of our collective humanity. Hayes claims that the biggest failure of the human race is that on a daily basis we fail to “see, feel, and acknowledge our shared identical humanness instead of focusing on our professed differences” (180). In this way horses reach beyond human capability. Even though horses and humans are different species, they share a bond that goes beyond ‘professed differences,’ something our society still has yet to learn.
Hayes, Tim. Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal. New York: St. Martin’s, 2015. Print. 247 pp.
This article from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine focuses on the multi-faceted benefits to hippotherapy on a child with special needs. Hippotherapy is one of the services that we offer at Windrush and at many therapeutic riding centers around the world, and, at its root, it is defined as “therapy with the use of a horse.” Benefits can be physical (added muscle strength as being mounted on a horse mimics the activity of walking, but without putting any pressure on the legs), and additionally the horses used can serve as a social catalyst, encouraging verbal participation and emotional bonding. This article looks at the dynamics system perspective to look at how all of the benefits of hippotherapy can improve the well-being of an individual and can prove to be a healthy, holistic type of therapy that can help children with disabilities!
Benedict Carey, NY Times journalist, gives readers an incredible at “Open Dialogue,” a budding mental health treatment technique.
Excerpt: “For the first time in this country, experts say, psychiatry’s critics are mounting a sustained, broadly based effort to provide people with practical options, rather than solely alleging abuses like overmedication and involuntary restraint… The Open Dialogue approach involves a team of mental health specialists who visit homes and discuss the crisis with the affected person — without resorting to diagnostic labels or medication, at least in the beginning” (Carey, 2016).
Photo from ScienceMag.org
Fantastic write-up from Science Magazine (AAAS) about some of the research being done with horses! All of us horse people have experienced our equine partners communicating with us in some way — we are so glad that science is starting to recognize that too! In this article, scientists explored whether or not horses would communicate their preference in wearing a blanket or not based on the weather.
Morell, V. (2016). Horses can use symbols to talk to us. Science. doi:10.1126/science.aah7335
Check out this fantastic article by Anna Blake! Anna is an equine professional, author, horse advocate, and proud member of the herd at Infinity Farm, on the Colorado prairie. She trains horses and riders equine communication skills and dressage, and writes parables about horses and life.
Article Excerpt: “Most of us have been told to push our horses when they become afraid; to ride them through whatever behavior they are doing. Some horses submit and show passive resistance by shutting down, while other horses come apart and get in more trouble for that. Does it sound too dramatic to say that lots of horses live lives of quiet desperation? Not enough fear to be horribly dangerous, but certainly enough resistance and tension that they are visibly uncomfortable. For the record, chronic fear isn’t normal.”