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First Day of Equine Therapy

His thundering hooves could be heard from the distance as Charlie darted from here to there. He is the “Sheriff,” the boys named him. The two horses seemed to be polar opposites, one running around on high alert, the other calm and grazing.

When we asked the students to talk about the differences between the two animals they shared thoughts like “he is the protector and she feels safe,” “he is the dad and she is the baby.” The boys sat in a half circle enclosed by a canopy tent for privacy discussing how they felt about being there, what it was like to approach the horses, and how they can calm themselves around the animals. Each student had different reactions to being near the horses, one being “terrified” while another was “content.” Learning to take deep breaths, use positive self talk and try again was the theme for the day by facing a fear, taking on a challenge, and stepping out of their comfort zone, getting closer to the horses each time.

They first approached from outside the fence, then they went in. Imagine two horse loose in huge arena, one with high energy and one content. One boy made the decision to not go in because he did not feel safe. Making choices to do what was best for him, and he chose “no.” To end the group session the boys watched as the male horse approached the female horse and got into her “bubble.”

The female horse demonstrated assertiveness to say, “no,” you are not going to enter my bubble and kicked at the male horse. He then retreated. This behavior was a perfect transition into next week’s theme of boundaries and how to know when you are going too far and have crossed boundaries with someone and how to tell others when they have entered your bubble.

Laurie Linsley, MS
Bruce Smith, PhD
Angela Schumacher, LCSW
Lynn Paterna, LPC