The heat provided a calming effect on the animals and the students as we began Week 2 of our Equine Therapy Program. The horses were tied loosely to the railing so they could graze on the grass as we introduced the activities for the day. The themes for the day were “boundaries and trust.”
The students discussed personal boundaries, how to make healthy relationships with others and listed 6 key elements to developing relationships. After learning how to use 6 specific grooming tools in sequence the students approached the horses and began grooming. Each tool was used to build trust and rapport with the animal. Students needed to be calm, safe, and trustworthy. The last tool is a “hoof pick” used to clean the horse’s hooves. The horse must trust you before he will lift up his foot. The students each took their time gaining the horses trust before attempting to lift the foot.
After grooming, the students each learned how to lead the horse and took turns walking them through a pattern they had created as a group. Leading the horses took confidence, patience and assertiveness as they would go their own way, try to eat grass, or bump the students along the way.
Our closing circle reviewed the day and challenged the students to identify 6 key elements of building trust and relationships with people. Their list was 1) observe others to be sure you want to be closer, 2) have positive communication, 3) be sure the relationship is consensual, 4) be honest and be sure they are honest, 5) take time to develop the relationship and have patience, and 6) be sure you and the other person are both trustworthy.
The students shared some of their journal entries about the day.
“I was very careful to have good boundaries with Deshka because I want a good relationship with her. I think I slowly gained her trust while cleaning her with the brushes. Today I trusted the horse, but did not trust myself to be able to walk her around because of my hurt ankle so I decided not to do it. I really wanted to walk her, but I don’t want to hurt myself anymore.”
“As far as boundaries go, I did not look at her while she was peeing. Also, I respected her and praised her. She followed me where I wanted to go! I would say I earned trust from her to enter her boundaries.”
“Today I learned that horses are strong and heavy. The new horse stepped on my foot. He was strong enough to not let me control it because he was hungry. I also learned that horses can learn to trust us to clean them up.”
“It took patience for the horse to trust me. I felt that when I was walking the horse, that if I gave it more slack in the rope, like a foot away, I was in the appropriate place and I was not in the horse’s boundaries.”
“I had a good day today. I had a lot of fun grooming Charlie and walking him around. I had to build trust with him and get him to respect my boundaries. It was an expedited version of the friendship building process, and a lot of trust was required for both of us.”
Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity! This next week will focus on Attachment.