A Journey into Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning 22/01/15 by Julia Hall
By soarvalleywestern, Jan 26 2015 11:35AM
I’m a few years plus, into this exciting work, it’s a real gift to have the opportunity to bring together my passion for horses with my indoor therapy clinic and take it outdoors.
Initially I found myself grappling around in the dark and feeling deskilled and needless to say “trying too hard” and wondering what I was missing and why I found the work hard and staccato fashion, not flowing, no themes or patterns.
For months I projected my uncertainties and dissatisfaction with this innovative work seeking external answers. (I hadn’t realised how well I was blocking my way forward!) By looking for precise equipment, such as, poles, cones crates, boxes and so much more. (ah, now it will work!), but guess what nothing really changed. Ah! Now I know what it must be, my environment, of course why didn’t I realise this ages ago, this will be the answer! So I set off having new barn doors, tidying up, painting the stables, creating a specific therapy area in the barn and generally setting out my stall. Hey, guess what nothing much changed.
Throughout my journey into EAP, EAT and EAL I have attended workshops up and down the country, visiting regional meetings, joining EAGALA and completing part 1 and 2 in July 2014 both as an MH and ES. So now I must have cracked it. I’ve learnt about clean language, not getting in front of my clients, ground based exercises and so much more that I couldn’t do it justice to go into here.
But why was I still struggling? I just couldn’t seem to find the answers. I spoke to my supervisor, Sarah Urwin at length; her words of encouragement have been second to none. She would help me to demystify EAT/EAL. Alongside the support of my colleague and friend Sharon Wood (Director/Practitioner www.soarwesternvalley.co.uk) their messages have been for me to take my psychotherapy, counselling, coaching and supervision outdoors. Take my therapy out of my indoor clinic and into the stables, fields and all the elements of the outdoors.
So the next thing for me to do is to “BE” with my clients and my horses. I stopped “trying” and started “being”. By slowing right down and taking the time to breath and just see what is going on around me, say what I’m seeing or better still creating space for my clients to be able to take the space and say what they are seeing. By my observations and reflections of what I see and experience intervening where appropriate, facilitates the partnership between my client and the horses and enables the process of Equine Assisted Therapy.
Oh at last!!!!! I think I’m getting it.
We haven’t touched the equipment for months, so how can I be offering Equine therapy. Well let me tell you, I’ve been using the hay manger, horse’s behaviour as they eat and the projections and metaphors that were there before our very eyes. But now the client seems to be at ease with the process whether it’s about eating disorders, family dynamics, personal relationships, communication and so much more. How the horses muscle in and snatch the hay, eat at different places, is there a pattern are there changes and shifts etc.? Client’s being able to identify and see what’s happening with several aha! moments. Light bulb moments flashing about as if there is something magical happening, but no, it’s just EAT and EAP.
We move into the stables and learn about the horse’s eating needs and how my clients can observe behavioural outcomes from the horses before, during and after the feeding regimes. By simple changes in timings and patterns of the indoor feeding regime demonstrates control, agitation, restlessness and highlighting for my clients by the horses behaviours, issues they have never recognised in themselves before.
All of this work and so many more examples are underpinned by my knowledge and experience as a counsellor and psychotherapist since 1995 and my life around horses since 1966 these together create a solid base for my clients to grow , learn and overcome issues with Equine Assisted Therapy.
I feel truly privileged to have found this developing model of therapy and learning. Equine Assisted Therapy is now an integrated part of my practice.
Thank you Julia Hall for writing this peice