HOW MANY THERAPY SESSIONS AM I LIKELY TO NEED?
The number of sessions will depend on the presenting issue, your level of self-awareness and your ability to be open to your vunerabilities. Typically 4-6 sessions are recommended for a pre-determined mental health condition for which talking therapy has had limited impact.
IS THERE ANY POINT IN A SINGLE SESSION?
There is no need to commit to more than one session. Sometimes one session is enough to unlock ingrained patterns of behaviour and sometimes the first session reveals that a deeper level of healing is required. After the first session a treatment plan which typically lasts 4-6 sessions can be proposed. Booking onto a workshop can be a good place to start to minimise cost and experience the intervention first hand before committing to a private session.
WHAT HAPPENS IN A GROUP WORKSHOP?
Workshops consist of observation, interaction and experimentation exercises to enable the client to explore areas of self enquiry and make profound, often life changing revelations about their internal states. Coaching can be attended as individuals, in existing teams or workshop groups of up to 20 people.
WHAT IF I’M SCARED OF HORSES?
You can choose how close you get to the horses. If at any point you feel uncomfortable you can choose to leave the arena and the facilitators will support you. Observing the horses from outside the arena is also an option. Addressing fear - whether it’s fear of the horses or a subconscious fear that is being played out by a more tangible fear - is a key element of this work.
WHAT IF I’VE NEVER BEEN NEAR A HORSE BEFORE?
That’s fine. You don’t need any experience of being around horses. No riding or horsemanship of any kind is required. In fact the less the better as you will come free from any preconceived ideas of how you should or shouldn’t interact.
WHAT IF I’M VERY USED TO HORSES - WILL IT STILL WORK?
Yes as long as you can leave your preconceptions of how horses should behave in a master-follower sense. Many people with horse experience have become conditioned into ‘making the horse do things for them’ rather than 'allowing the horse to be themselves’. It’s a complete reversal of what we are taught in conventional horsemanship.
HOW WILL I KNOW THAT THE HORSES ARE REACTING TO ME ALONE?
Horses are highly sensitive beings who react in the moment to subtle changes in energy, intention, emotion, breathing and body language. This is all due to their need to survive as prey animals - giving them the ability to sense energy and intention very acutely.
What can appear to be a reaction to another horse in the arena could be a reaction to new energy entering the space or a shift in body-mind connection of the client. The equine specialist understands the behaviour and the character of each of the horses and can monitor behaviours that are relevant to the client in question. By checking in with the client at relevant points during the session the facilitators can help the client make sense of what is being mirrored internally.
If something outside the session startles the horse such as a noise of a overhead plane or a dog barking in the distance, the reaction of both client and horse in that moment is observed and used as information for the progression of the session. All sessions are held in an indoor arena or private paddock where distractions are kept to a minimum.
WHAT IF THE HORSES DON’T WANT TO INTERACT WITH ME?
Horses find it difficult to engage when we are not fully present or if we are concealing, often unknowingly, deeply held emotions or ingrained patterns of behaviour. If the facilitators sense that the client is not expressing their authentic self this will be explored further.
Sessions when very little happens physically can provide some of the richest learning of our internal worlds. Facilitators help the client process their experience and find connections to their experiences in life.
WHAT IF I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HORSES ARE TELLING ME?
There is no right and wrong. The horses will respond in the moment to your emotional state and way of being. The facilitators will help you think about what their behaviour might mean in relation to your situation. All that is required from the client is that they are themselves and can start to be open to their vulnerabilities as the session and course of sessions unfold.
ARE THE HORSES ESPECIALLY TRAINED?
No. Horses don’t need to be trained to react instinctively. However they need to be able to easily access their natural states and be emotionally stable in the presence of humans. This comes with being able to live a natural, respected and stress-free life; in fields not stables, in herds not alone, with as much play as work and in balanced relationships with people not forced into submissive, ‘person as leader’ roles that most conventional horsemanship favours.
Our horses are selected based on their inquisitive, friendly natures and their desire to interact with people as one of the herd. Their unique personalities, preferences, appearances and place in the herd all play a role in creating a rich environment for learning and healing.
WHAT IF I STAND IN THE WRONG PLACE AND GET HURT?
Facilitators will step in if they feel that there is a risk to the safety of client or horse. Our horses are well versed with people, adults and children, and will communicate their requirement for personal space where necessary. Our horses have no history of aggression towards people and their wellbeing is nurtured at all times in order to keep them emotionally sound. If the facilitators feel that the horses are not being treated kindly by a client or if the horse has an extreme, uncharacteristic reaction to a client this will be addressed and the session may be brought to a close.
WHAT IF I DISAGREE WITH WHAT THE THERAPISTS ARE SAYING?
The facilitators will never tell you what you are feeling. They provide the space for you to explore and uncover what may lay behind your feelings and behaviours. It will be the horses on the whole who will provide you with the feedback as they experience you from a place which is totally free from judgement and expectation.
IT SOUNDS EXPENSIVE. WHERE’S THE PROOF THAT IT WORKS?
There is a huge body of evidence for this work and it’s long term effectiveness for treating a wide range of mental health conditions and for realising self-development goals. It has also been proven that purely being in the presence of horses lowers the stress response and increases endorphins. Although this is a wonderful by-product of the intervention it is not to be confused as the objective of any session.
CAN IT WORK ALONGSIDE OTHER TREATMENT AND MEDICATION?
Yes the intervention can work alongside conventional therapies if necessary. Please provide all information on other treatments and/or medication on your application form so they can be assessed accordingly.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO OTHER FORMS OF THERAPY?
Equine assisted therapy is an experiential modality where learning occurs when carefully chosen experiences are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis. It places emphasis on the ‘doing’ rather than the ‘talking’ enabling clients to identify and address hidden or subconscious issues that are blocking their recovery.
It falls into the same categorisation as other experiential modalities such as art therapy, music therapy and wilderness therapy but the significant difference is that it involves interacting with highly sentient beings that have the ability to provide instantaneous feedback and an unbiased reflection of our inner worlds and state of mind.
Unlike traditional talk therapy experiential therapy requires the full (and non-verbal) engagement of body and mind and the presence of our true authentic states - a space where old stories (verbal) and misconceptions are no longer served and a space where our innermost workings and desires are honoured.
HOW DOES THIS MODEL OF EQUINE ASSISTED THERAPY COMPARE TO OTHER MODELS?
Track Clinic adheres to EAGALA, the global standard in equine assisted psychotherapy, which is distinct from any other form of equine assisted therapy for the following reasons:
1. Sessions are always conducted by two facilitators - a licensed mental health professional and a qualified equine specialist. This provides emotional and physical safety as well as close observation of the horses and the clients non verbal communication.
2. No riding takes place and no ropes or halters are used. The horses are free to react instinctively to the client and the client is free to interact with the horse at any distance, in any position, with however much or little movement. The horses become metaphors for the clients story and the client becomes one of the herd.
3. The model is solution-oriented meaning that it provides a non judgemental space for clients to discover their own best solutions. Using a range of open-question techniques the therapy allows long term solutions to surface rather than relying on short-term ‘feel-good’ fixes.
4. EAGALA has high standards of practice and ethics with an ethics committee and protocol that upholds them to ensure best practice and the highest level of care for the client.
These include facilitator qualifications & ongoing training, informed consent, confidentiality and the wellbeing of the horses.
DOES IT WORK AS WELL FOR CHILDREN AS FOR ADULTS?
Often horses respond more readily to children as they are often less constrained and closed than adults. Children are only partially conditioned to hide their inner workings and wear the mask that others expect.
Children of any age, even babies with their mothers and/or fathers, can participate.
CAN I BE PART OF THE SESSION WITH MY CHILD EVEN IF IT’S NOT ME THAT NEEDS THE THERAPY?
Yes, often the relationship between client and family member/s is core to unlocking engrained patterns of behaviour and accessing deeply held emotions. Throughout a course of sessions practitioners may suggest that other family members are introduced to sessions that have started out as individual sessions. We advise on a case by case basis.
DOES MY CHILD NEED TO BE A “WILLING PARTICIPANT” OR DOES IT STILL WORK WITH RELUCTANT PARTICIPANTS?
As long as your child is there in body (even though not fully in mind) the facilitators and horses will enable the child to explore shifts in mind state and navigate any blockages. Very little talking needs to take place so your child will not need to ‘play along’ unnaturally. They may require more time to become fully immersed in the interaction but all of this is considered in the context of the treatment plan so that nothing is rushed, staged or forced.