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8 therapeutic exercises with horses from our coach in Norway, Jeanette Lysell


The goal of Psychotherapy with horses is to make the participant aware of their own communication patterns. The chosen exercises are about achieving a relationship with the horse. By bringing the horse in as a contributor to psychosocial work, we have a special responsibility to take care of the horse in the best possible way. The horse has not chosen to contribute, it is our choice.





What is Equine therapy?


Equine therapy, also known as Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT), is a treatment that includes equine activities and/or an equine environment in order to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth in persons suffering from ADD, Anxiety, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Dementia, Depression, Developmental Delay, Genetic Syndromes (such as Down Syndrome), traumatic brain injuries, behavioral issues, abuse issues, and many other mental health problems.


Equine Therapy can help the individual build confidence, self- efficiency, communication, trust, perspective, social skills, impulse control, and learn boundaries.


Since the horses have similar behaviors with humans, such as social and responsive behaviors, it is easy for the patients to create a connection with the horse.



Different horses to different purpose


A horse is not just a horse… The horse is seen as a subject and individual who contributes to the learning space through its response to the environment. It provides a lot of opportunities for growth and learning because different horses can support different topics the participant is working on. It is important to choose the right individual for the activities. In some cases, it will be to let the participant meet the horses and choose witch horse that person want to work with in the further. In other interventions, it is correct that the provider choose a horse on the basis that you want to ride with the horse, for example, or that the participant needs to be given a challenge that can be to lead the horse through an obstacle course or learn to put on equipment. This means that you take into account the personality, education and responsiveness of the horse when arranging exercises for participants.



Now we want to give you 8 exercises from our expert and coach in Norway, Jeanette Lysell.


But first..



1. «Meet the horse herd»


The horses stand in separate boxes or in separate enclosures. You are invited to spend a few minutes in front of each horse. You should not touch or talk to the horse, just try to sense with your own body if you get any kind of information. It can be anything from nothing, to physical sensations, pictures, thoughts about the horse etc. anything from two to six to seven horses can work. What you look for in this exercise is whether there is a resonance between a horse and the person and that it creates opportunities for a good relationship between horse and human. In addition, the exercise supports presence and an awareness that we get a lot of information through our own sensations in meeting another individual. The exercise also has elements of boundaries in it in that you have a specific physical demarcation that for many can feel safe in the first meeting. This exercise is also very much about mindfulness.



2. Lead the horse


Here you can focus on closeness-distance, clear body language and leadership. Here you can vary the challenges. The purpose of the exercise can be to learn how to lead the horse, become aware of your own body language, work with focus, contact and cooperation.



3. "Grooming by hands" stroking the horse with his hands to music


This is a mindfulness exercise. The purpose is to be present in the exercise, regulate heart rhythm and find a good balance in the company of the horse. The sense of touch comes into focus and can create an experience of calm.



4. Find a comfortable zone with the horse


Can take place in a box, small enclosure or on pasture or outdoor. The horse is loose, or is held by an assistant while the participant is allowed to experiment with how comfortable it is to be around the horse. Through sensations in the body and action impulses, the participant finds the optimal zone, sometimes close to the horse, other times at a good distance. The purpose may be to become aware of how much sensation in the body can help you find a good place to be with the horse. Respect for the horse's zone can be a theme, or teaching how to best move around the horse in a safe way.



5. «Travel with the horse»


The horse (s) are loose on the track, various objects are available for the participants who can make a trail with the objects which for example can be about moving from junior high school to high school, new job, institution etc. ie transitions and broken relationships. It can also be about the current situation or something else that you want to address. The horse (s) can possibly be lead through the trail, or you see what the horses do with the objects and reflect on what is happening and what you get out of it.



6. Lie on the horse


Preferably done with a horse the participant has built up a relationship with through previous interventions. The horse is kept by an assistant or the provider. The participant sits for a while bareback on the horse the right way while she gets ready to turn around, possibly with a person who is confident in what she turns. When she sits backwards, the participant pats the horse a little on the cross to prepare and the horse that now I lie down. When she lies down, she can focus on her and the horse's breathing, close her eyes and just feel how it feels to lie like this. Time can vary from a few minutes to… 20? The purpose of the exercise can be to dry it, feel the difference between lying forward towards the neck, versus the back of the crotch, as a mindfulness exercise by focusing on presence and breathing, and / or as an experience of being carried. This exercise "speaks" to the older part of the brain and can provide regulation, calm, and bodily memories, both good and bad. Note that you can become very vulnerable in this exercise, so let the rider turn and possibly ride a round where she herself takes control and returns to an adult self.



7. The anatomy of the horse


Can be done individually and with a group. You are given postage stamps and write down the name of the horse's body part, e.g. Mane, and attach patches to the mane. The purpose of the exercise can be to learn anatomy, you can make a competition for example how many notes in two minutes, etc. Can give a lot of laughter and good learning.



8. Carrot play- Group exercise


The participants have been given a fist with carrot pieces and stand in a circle with the horse inside the circle. The goal is to get the horse to walk calmly from one to the other to get the carrot. A nice exercise to end with, cooperation and circular energy - everyone is involved. You may want to deliver the goodies on a small play shovel or the like. When children are going to do the exercise so you reduce the chance of someone being bitten in the finger.



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