I read a fantastic feature recently which looked at how horses can help people with mental illnesses to heal. Essentially, this is accomplished by allowing these people to get hands on experience working with horses and ponies on the ground. The article also contained some really fascinating facts, for example that horses can hear a human heartbeat from 4 feet away, and in fact even have the ability to synchronize their own heartbeat to that of the human being!
I’ve heard before of horses being used to strengthen bonds between colleagues, with ‘office team building’ activities that include horses being popular to teach staff leadership skills and respect for others. After all with a 2,000lb horse loose in an arena with you, you need to know how to work together and negotiate with the animal if you want it to do something!
I know the RDA (Riding For The Disabled) has long promoted the holistic healing effect that horses have on individuals as well, but this particular therapy centre in the States actually introduces people into a herd environment and monitors the way the horses respond to the client, which gives their therapists an insight into each patient’s psychology.
Anyone who has been around ponies and horses will vouch for the fact that they really do tap into your emotions and mood. Racing from the office down to the yard for a quick schooling session under pressure never resulted in an Olympic Gold medal performance from either horse or rider. Indeed, the fact that horses are being used in this kind of therapy further reinforces what we horse riders have known for so long about the abilities of our beloved animals.
The relationship which we are lucky enough to share with these animals is so special and it’s exciting to see some areas of the medical profession are now recognising the huge benefits which horses can have in your life.