Emily and Hopsie
LEADING WITH HORSES
Leading With Horses offers an alternative environment to conventional talk therapy.The strength in this program is that mental health professionals can assess their client/patient by observing them engaging in problem solving tasks, or confidence building and self-awareness lessons. Parents and caregivers can put tools into action – real-time lessons under the guidance of their therapist.
Through collaborative efforts with mental health professionals we address a multitude of issues effecting both adults and youth such as depression, PTSD, anti-bullying and suicide prevention. The professional and client can work freely in a safe environment to elicit, decipher, prove and encourage their clients healing and growth.
We invite whole families to a program that encourages communication and results in emotional growth within the entire family or spouse, rather than equipping children with new skills and tools that will not be reciprocated at home.
When licensed mental health professionals bring their clients out and explore ways to incorporate this modality of therapeutic learning, Executive Director, Katie Merwick, facilitates the horsemanship aspect.Katie shares her more than 40 years of experience as an animal behaviorist and trainer, as well as having operated a nonprofit and youth development program for 21 years.
We know that leadership is based on intangible qualities. The strength of experiential learning is that the meaning and the process is solely based on the individual’s personal experience, rather than being “taught” through someone else’s experience. Aristotle once said, “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
About Our Services
Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is a collaboration between a mental health professional and an equine professional to include adjunct EAP therapy to existing treatment programs. We address a multitude of issues effecting both adults and youth such as depression, PTSD, anti-bullying and suicide prevention, with a focus on “family counseling” to achieve a more holistic and comprehensive approach in providing solutions and treatment.
Our programs do not include riding or riding instruction. EAP is focused on human skills, not horse skills. Allowing horses and client to interact naturally and of their own free will is what leads to change in people’s lives. It’s all about the relationship between the horses and clients, not the relationship between the facilitators and clients. Professionals are there to facilitate opportunities and bring perception or realization to the lessons being learned.
By integrating the horse-to-human connection, we offer experiential learning where the meaning and the process is solely based on the individual’s personal experience, rather than being “taught” through someone else’s experience. Often professionals find their clients to be more receptive of accepting information from the horses through this non-verbal, alternative to talk therapy. And, as well, more open to expressing themselves, than if directly speaking about their issues. By allowing them to process information in a different way, it allows professionals to observe their client’s triggers and respond to them in real-time counseling.
This team approach of licensed mental health professional and equine expert offers a safe, controlled environment for the client. Sessions are structured and facilitated to specifically address the reasons clients come to therapy, and designed to best create metaphors to “real life”. Clients have shown us that the they truly do have the answers they seek, when given the opportunity to discover them.
The unique nature of the horse is what makes the therapy so successful. Horses reflect the behavior and emotional state of the people around them and provide us with immediate and effective feedback. The most important element of therapy is trust. There is an unspoken truth that horses don’t lie or deceive. Not because they are altruistic, but because they are incapable of deceit as an animal who cannot concoct an alternate tale of reality. As the horse builds trust it connects with the person. This quite often provides the client with a feeling of comfort and the opportunity to break down barriers and address the challenges they have been facing. Horses have a majestic and powerful presence. For those who lack confidence, being put in a position of leadership over a 1000lb animal, and successfully managing that animal, 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.
The three basic aspects of learning from equine therapy;
Horses share much of the same personality traits and emotions as humans; they are dynamic, playful, curious, emotionally sensitive – but more consistently, honest and unbiased. 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 experience.
The strength of experiential learning is that the meaning and the process is solely based on the individual’s personal experience, rather than being “taught” through someone else’s experience. As prey animals, horses have evolved exquisitely sensitive perceptual abilities that far exceed that of humans. As herd animals they have developed a 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.
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 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. 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 horses offer to the community is an exploration of the self, and self-discovery. A model of show and not tell.
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;
Benefits of the horse as a partner in therapy;
Honest, non-judgmental feedback gains immediate trust – clients are willing to be more emotionally vulnerable
Stimulus/Response: immediate responses by the horse demonstrates patterns of behavior and belief systems by both equine and handler
Non-verbal interaction tests ideas of connection and attachment. 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. Handling a large and powerful animal or dealing with the unknown creates a need for boundaries, awareness, and horsemanship/handling requires that we are observant, focused and attentive.
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.