Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Learning

What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

Equine-­assisted psychotherapy is a therapeutic intervention process that incorporates horses as co-­therapists.

“Life has many ups and downs and twists and turns, but you are going to spend some healing time with a very special teacher, someone highly recommended and very accomplished. When you meet, your senses are submerged. The wise eyes hold your attention, seeing you within and without, the presence is unique and listens attentively in a way that no one else has ever done before. You bare your soul and by acute observations of your thoughts and emotions, the teacher reflects back to you things of which you had not previously been aware. There is nothing covert or judgmental in the approach, only a benign desire to help. Without using words, the teacher can change your life. You reach out and touch the loving face, feel the warm breath on your hands, stroke the soft body. You are saved. This guide is your horse, and all the horses in the world” (Margeret Coates).

Equine-­assisted psychotherapy is an experiential and hands-­on approach where clients take part in activities and interact with the horses on the ground, no riding involved. The core concept of equine-­assisted therapy is that certain difficulties and emotions will naturally rise to the surface when that client interacts with the horses and participates in the activities.

The reason why psychotherapy using horses is different from any other animal assisted psychotherapy is that rather than predatory animals such as dogs and cats, horses are prey animals. Prey animals have an acute and heightened sense of perception and awareness of what is going on around them. They do not know how to conceal because it is this very awareness and reflection that keeps them safe. In today’s day and age, people have learned to “conceal” their true feelings, true selfs and intent. It is through this acute awareness, perception and reflection that the horse that can mirror and bring out what feelings truly are being experienced, removing all masks. Horses are very powerful messengers in an EAP session and they provide people a feeling of safety and unconditional acceptance. The lesson that horses teach the client is that if something in the person changes then the horse’s behaviour will also change to reflect that person’s progress. The client therefore does not only hear about the change but also experiences change first hand.

Why EAP & EAL

My journey in terms of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy started long before I even realized. I have dreamt of working with horses and people since I can remember. It is still so very clear, the day when I first fell in love with the most magnificent of creatures, the horse. I was five years old and already then I knew I want to combine my love for horses and my passion for people-­in-­need to make a difference. By grace, here I am fulfilling my dream, and what a privilege it is. Horses daily helping people to heal in ways humans never could; inspiring yet mysterious, and though very real. Being involved in various aspects of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy you cannot miss the wonderful value and impact that this therapy can have on those involved. I therefore dedicate my work to all the brave horses out there that offer us their lives and hearts to help people. We are looking forward to embark on a significant and unforgettable journey of your own growth, learning and healing, with you.

My EAP training and experiences

I was trained by the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Institute of South Africa (EAPISA) as well as the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) and am currently a member of EAGALA. I have been practicing Equine Assisted Psychotherapy since approximately 2008. I completed my Masters Dissertation on the impact of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy when utilised in sexual abuse cases. Furthermore I presented the paper at the National Psychological Symposium of South Africa and I was also invited to do training using Equine Assisted Psychotherapy at the National Creative Expressive Arts Symposium.

For further information refer to Meet Katherine

Do I need any experiences with horses

Being a type of psychotherapy it does not involve being skilled with horses. No experience with horses is needed what so ever.

Group Workshops

Group workshops are facilitated by the Equine-­tessential team or by myself depending on the workshop. Workshops range from High Emotional Intelligence parenting workshops to Corporate EQ training workshops. The workshops are all facilitated using Equine Assisted Learning activities and interaction.

What is the difference between therapeutic riding and EAP

Firstly EAP is a type of psychological therapy focusing on emotional growth, learning and healing where as therapeutic riding focuses on the physical development of the child. There is also no riding of horses involved in EAP.

Who can EAP assist

Anyone can benefit from EAP, even if your goal is purely personal growth. Over the years we have seen that EAP deals very well with amongst others the following issues: trauma, post traumatic stress disorder, poor communication skills, low self-­esteem and self-­confidence, ineffective boundaries, low or no trust in others, anger management, problem-­solving skills, anxiety and fear, self-­isolated individuals, parenting and discipline issues, grief, relationship difficulties, behavioural difficulties, attention-­deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and anxiety amongst others.