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.