Those who are familiar with horses recognize and understand the power of horses to influence people in incredibly powerful ways. Developing relationships, training, horsemanship instruction and caring for the horses naturally affects the people involved in a meaningful way.
The benefits of the work ethic, responsibility, assertiveness, communication, and healthy relationships have long been recognized. Horses naturally provide these benefits. We are so often asked, “Why horses, why not other animals?”
Horses are large and powerful, which creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. The size and power of a horse are naturally intimidating to many people. Accomplishing a task involving the horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides for wonderful metaphors when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.
Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes, and moods. An approach that seems to work with one horse does not necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning. Using metaphors, in discussion or activity, is an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups.
Horses require work , whether in caring for them or working with them. 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 characteristic in all aspects of life.
What is the role of the horse in an EAP session? Horses are sensitive to non-verbal communication and respond to what messages the clients give them in the moment. These responses give the client and the treatment team information – information that brings awareness of current patterns and motivates change to new ones. Many clients will complain, “The horse is stubborn”. “The horse does not like me”, etc. But the lesson to be learned is that if they change themselves, the horses will respond differently – just like people!