Watching sessions in the arena, I was struck by the tremendous energy, both physical and emotional, that was unleashed. At first, I did not really grasp what was happening. There was a lot of movement among the horses, some gentle commentary and suddenly the volunteer ‘clients’ were talking excitedly, unable to contain their feelings about what had just happened. Something amazing had taken place.
Eagala is the global standard model for equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP). Following a period of training, along with colleagues at the Bermuda SPCA I have been providing this powerful form of therapy for a number of months. I work within a close-knit team which includes myself, the Equine Specialist, Kate, and our therapy horse. We have only had a few sessions as yet but we have been struck by the speed and immediacy of the work. Often, I have learned more about a person in one session of EAP than I have done in weeks of talking therapy.
EAP works through projective energy. The herd are highly sensitive and attuned to humans and in turn, the humans project powerfully onto the herd. All this is mediated through the team, who gently encourage and allow the session to develop with as little interference as possible. Clients often use objects such as buckets or rods to create structures in the arena while the team draw attention to the way humans and animals interact and perform around the structures.
At the end of February I spent three days in Lexington, Kentucky attending the 20th anniversary Eagala conference. What I saw in Kentucky were only demonstration sessions, using coaching goals with volunteer clients. This was to avoid the depth and exposure of real therapeutic work. Yet in these supposedly ‘superficial’ sessions people experienced profound shifts in thinking. We watched a volunteer make a connection with one particular horse, then build a caged structure to contain her ‘goals’. The horse she had chosen persistently nudged aside her rigid barriers, freeing her ‘goals’ one by one. Equally moving was watching the fast, agitated circular movement of a group of horses suddenly stilled when the humans in the arena knelt down, reached inside themselves and quieted their own anxiety. Again, while it was striking simply to watch, it seemed that the people actually interacting with the horses were experiencing something deeply stirring.
Having witnessed EAP in action, I am even more inspired to further develop this therapy on island. If you know someone who may benefit from this type of therapy then please contact us today to discuss further.