Emily and Hopsie
LEADING WITH HORSES
“Leading with Horses (LWH)” is an alternative environment to conventional talk therapy and an innovative platform for mental health professionals to utilize while engaging with clients. This is a non-riding and psychotherapy based program, in an environment that fosters social, emotional, and behavioral growth. With our assistance and our horses, the professional and client can work freely in a safe environment to elicit , decipher, prove and encourage their clients healing and growth.
The program is designed to benefit children and young adults, parents, siblings and other adults in that child’s life who influence them, with an emphasis on challenges that veterans cope with, each given unique tools to expand their potential on a daily basis and put the concept into practice. We invite families to a program that will encourage communication and emotional growth within the entire family or spouse rather than just treating an individual.
Through collaborative efforts with licensed counselors and doctors we address a multitude of issues effecting both adults and youth development such as depression, PTSD, anti-bullying and suicide prevention.
When licensed mental health professionals such as therapists and counselors bring their clients out and explore ways to incorporate this modality of therapeutic learning, Executive Director, Katie Merwick, may work with individuals, families or groups giving guidance in horsemanship.
How Does EFL Work?
Activities with the horses challenge participants to work together to find solutions through positive communication and collaboration. It is an experience that becomes a metaphor for real life situations. The unpredictability of these activities and their outcomes require participants to apply and develop important relationship and life skills. The most important aspect of these activities is not whether the goal is achieved but rather identifying patterns of behavior and emotional response that relate to the modern-day corporate experience.
Through the constructs of basic horse care and non-riding horsemanship, leading horses through a course design much like an agility course, professional and client have the opportunity to discuss topics unique to their healing; such as leadership, self-esteem, problem solving, which can be the balm to deeper underlying issues affecting youth today; fear of fitting in, eating disorders, anti-bullying, suicide prevention, and for family traumas, namely PTSD.
We feel strongly that through interaction with the horse, even running a hand over a neck, or putting fingers out to touch a muzzle, can do much to open a door to ideas or thoughts not before disclosed. In a world of technology, voice, the spoken kind has seemed to have lost its importance. What we can offer to the community is an exploration of the self, and self discovery. A model of show and not tell. We can’t tell our youth of today what to become. We have to invite them to see themselves and stand near as they learn the skills necessary, leadership, kindness, empathy, understanding, to become more wholesome people. Through the guided horsemanship our program offers, voice can be found. Stronger, wiser, better decision makers, evolve then into the professors, doctors, teachers, business persons of tomorrow.
Why does it work?
People typically learn best by doing. Life lessons take deeper root when individuals understand them in their minds and experience them in their bodies. Horses deliver an opportunity for non-verbal communication.
By utilizing the unique capacity of horses to demonstrate their teaching and healing abilities the horses’ natural gifts of perception and communication provide constant, real-time feedback to their human partners.
Our exceptional herd of thoroughbred athletes have much to teach individuals in partnership—whatever their challenges. They enable us to see into our blind spots by serving as a mirror - the horse helps its human partner identify incongruities holding them back. Some of these special horses are champions; others have dealt with a variety of challenges that equip them to relate to individuals with particular needs in empathetic and gentle ways.
As prey animals, horses have evolved exquisitely sensitive perceptual abilities that far exceed that of humans. As herd animals they have developed refined ability to read body language and emotional incongruence. Horses are masters of presence. Powerful teachers of integrity of will, intent, energy and alignment. Quite simply, horses change the way we see ourselves.
Horses respond with unique insight into exactly who we are in the moment. They are profoundly gifted reflectors of our true selves because their very survival depends on reading us correctly. Subtle changes in our actions or behaviors can provoke responses that give us immediate feedback about ourselves – they are an excellent source of organic biofeedback able to mirror our emotions and provide non-judgmental feedback. The feedback is correct because horses do not lie. Not because they are altruistic, but because they are incapable of deceit as an animal who cannot concoct an alternate tale of reality.
Working with horses requires participants to make a connection – to form relationships based on trust, clear communication and understanding, much like working in an effective workplace team. Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals living and “working” within a community – a herd. The main goal of the herd is to maintain balance and harmony.
Working with horses in the capacity that "you" are the leader and handler, the unique consequences of a person's actions lead the client to experience feelings of accomplishment, adventure, frustration, uncertainty, failure, rejection or even fear. With horses, you will learn that leadership is achieved through intelligence and ability to produce results, rather than bullying. This leadership dynamic has much to teach us about leading without dominance or intimidation.
Leading with Horses has created a safe place for coaches, therapists, researchers and individuals to explore their behaviors. We believe horses are uniquely adapted to coach humans.
SCR offers a curriculum and structure that provides opportunities to teach critical life and communication skills. A few examples are;
Communication: horses communicate mostly with body language and limited vocal communication, clients are able to observe and practice how non-verbal communication might be impacting or influencing others in our lives.
Awareness and Focus: Horses demand that we are aware of our surroundings at all times. Horsemanship/handling requires that we are observant, focused and attentive.
Strong work ethic: Horses have needs like an infant, where the human is responsible for care and every task must be repeated on a daily basis. It takes dedication and effort.
Confidence: Horses are a majestic and powerful presence. For those who lack confidence, successfully managing and training a horse is sure to build self-esteem and self-confidence. Or even those who have a false over confidence, the horse teaches humility through example as these powerful creatures live peacefully and cooperatively with us.
Other documented results;
Increase trust and confidence
Improve self-awareness and focus
Develop and improve anger management skills
Build strong and appropriate boundaries
Reduce loneliness, anxiety, and feelings of isolation
Decrease impulsive and self-destructive behaviors