How can horses help?

Grounded, congruent and present

Horses have always had an allure that is fascinating and captivating.  Their sheer strength and power command respect and awe, and their social nature, curiosity and willingness to connect with humans, has helped us to seek out ways to understand and work with these gentle giants.  Horses have accompanied us in our evolution and their role has developed over time from a beast of burden to companion, confident, teacher, co-therapist and healer. In Equine Facilitated Wellness (EFW) we work with the horses as sentient beings in partnership, building relationships. It is this relationship of working together towards balance and well-being that is at the basis of the approach of EFW. In seeking, building and nurturing relationships, a more holistic approach to wellness is achieved.  Over all well-being includes a balance across the dimensions of social, spiritual, physical, mental, environmental and occupational health conditions that creates a mind, body and spirit connection.  It is the balance between these dimensions that creates a sense of wellness that is manifested in daily living.  When one of these components is practiced to the extent that it crowds out the others, or if one area is not nurtured, distress, discomfort and disease may accompany the imbalance.  The World Health Organization describes wellness as  "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." (World Health Organization 2005). 

​At Highlands Gate a safe environment is created to provide counselling and/or ​Equine Facilitated Wellness from a nature based approach. Sessions may take place in a century old log building or outside. No riding is involved and the client interacts with the horses to the extent that they are comfortable with, which may be over the fence, observing the horses from a distance or in contact with the horses with the assistance and guidance of the therapist. Adapting to this unique therapeutic setting gives the client the opportunity to experience a sense of safety and control with the ability to regulate emotions and make thoughtful choices with the horse as their co-therapist.  With the guidance of therapists who are trained in EFW, the client can practice the same skills that horses use to build relationships in their herd and keep themselves safe in different environments, by accessing and becoming aware of their senses and how they respond to challenges. By becoming more aware of the connection between the body and mind, the client is able to practice a more mindful approach that will build resilience and coping skills to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, grief and self esteem. The pace and goals of the sessions are discussed and set by the client to insure a safe and comfortable environment for growth and development.