Every Thursday, Doc takes a group of patients that she works with out to a farm for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Doc and many others feel that interacting with horses and other animals as part of their treatment helps to enhance their healing.
One of the first things that they learn is what the barn rules are when interacting with the horses. Since the group has come to horses territory, they need to be able to show respect for the animals. The rules of the barn are; Mosey- Horses move in a leisurely, aimless manner and this directs the group members to slow down their pace and be in the moment. Breath- Focusing on breath calms down the system and helps the horses to feel safe. Speak Quietly- The horses respond best when approached with soft voices. Being that they are prey animals, loud aggressive noises startle them and set off their response to flee the situation. After learning the barn rules, the group members came up with a 4th rule they wanted to add to the list. Respect- this included with each other and the horses.
It’s wonderful to observe how gentle the group members are with these large animals. As a result they are seeing the importance of how the lessons they learn from the horses can be applied when interacting with the humans in their lives. It’s also interesting to watch what happens when they don’t follow the barn rules and how the horses resist by leaving the area or refusing to move. Like Doc always says ” Dogs and horses act as a mirror of what your energy is in the moment.”
Slowly but surely, the patients are starting to understand how their reactions and interactions with the horses act as a metaphor for how they are with others and what negative thinking patterns they may be stuck in. Not always easy lessons to learn. But this dog has faith that they will stay on the journey and take away some valuable lessons from this experience.