The Healing Power of Horses

Equine Assisted Therapy Helps Participants Heal

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to be around horses, you know the calming and healing powers they possess. Horses are intelligent animals, each with a unique personality and changing mood that can be useful in treating a variety of both physical and psychological conditions. I spoke with Jennifer Ladd, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who is also certified with Equine Assisted Growth And Learning Association, both as a Mental Health Professional and an Equine Specialist. Here, she talks about equine therapy and the horses she works with.

How does equine therapy work?

Eagala Model Equine Assisted Psychotherapy involves a collaborative effort between a licensed behavioral health provider, a horse professional and horses working with clients to address treatment goals. Participants learn about themselves and others by participating in experiential activities with horses and then processing feelings, behaviors and patterns. Patterns of behaviors, emotions and/or interactions arise that mirror patterns in clients’ lives. The activities are all on the ground—there is no riding.

According to the Eagala (www.eagala.org): “Those who are familiar with horses recognize and understand the power of horses to influence people in incredibly powerful ways. Like humans, horses are social animals. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. An approach that works with one horse won’t necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. Horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning, an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups. Most importantly, horses mirror human body language and emotions. People must change themselves for the horses to respond differently. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful messengers and agents of change.” (www.eagala.org)

What are some of the benefits of equine therapy?

EAP allows for processing of difficult issues and emotions in the external space of a horse arena, using horses and props to represent things and issues a person is struggling with. For some, this is less threatening, so it decreases the natural resistance that often occurs in the therapeutic process.

What ages and demographics do you serve?

Dancing Spirit Ranch partners with Agape Counseling Services to provide services to individuals and families. All ages and demographics are welcome. Preschool children are only served as a part of a family unit and parents must be present.

Dancing Spirit Ranch also partners with other local agencies and treatment facilities to provide EAP to the facilites’ clientele.

What conditions does this therapy address?

Any mental or behavioral health issue can be addressed. The process begins with an assessment to determine needs and the development of a treatment plan. Activities are then structured to address treatment objectives specific to the client.

Do you use one or more horses? What is their name(s)? Tell us a little about each of them and what they bring to therapy.

Currently, Dancing Spirit Ranch has three horses.

Trixie is a large and elderly quarter horse. She is very gentle and compassionate. She is a good horse for those who have no horse experience and are nervous about being around such large animals.

Archie is also a quarter horse. He is playful and likes to test boundaries. I often pair him with people who need to work on setting boundaries.

Ginger is a POA (Pony of America). She is a rescue horse and has a history of severe trauma. She is chronically lame due to an injury she had when young that was not treated. While Archie and Trixie like everyone, Ginger tends to gravitate toward people who also have a history of trauma.

Dancing Spirit Ranch



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