What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)?
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) at Unbridled Healing is conducted using the EAGALA model, which requires the participation of a qualified, Eagala certified Mental Health Professional (MH), an Eagala certified Equine Specialist (ES), and Horse(s) in a private setting.
This form of therapy is very effective because horses are intelligent, perceptive creatures that often reflect the treatment they receive, and they also respond noticeably to the slightest change in a human being’s approach. Unbridled Healing offers group programs and also offers Individual EAP sessions when the MH therapist feels it will benefit the client.
How do sessions work?
In these sessions, the client(s) first have a “check-in” with the human facilitators, then engage in groundwork activities with the horses in an experiential fashion, with little to no interference from the MH and ES aside from keen observation.
At the close of the session, the client shares what they experienced (to their level of comfort) and Horse(s) behaviours may be discussed with meaningful questions asked by the facilitators, using the client’s own words to draw connections and metaphors that link the experience with the Horse(s) back to events or focal points that exist in the client’s everyday life.
The goal is to help clients build skills such as communication, responsibility, resiliency, and self-confidence in a safe environment in which the individual can make mistakes and learn from them.
What is so special about EAP?
EAP helps clients to address thoughts and feelings. When interacting with a horse, they must use their bodies and hearts to feel and react in the moment. Horses can sense emotions like aggression and anger, and may become stubborn in response. If someone is anxious, the horse might also be nervous. When the horse is approached by someone who is calm and open, it is more likely to respond in a kind and loving way.
Horses are large, imposing animals. This can trigger feelings of fear, past trauma, feelings of inadequacy, lack of confidence or lack of control. Clients may worry that the horse won’t like them, won’t choose them or could harm them. Equine therapy teaches clients how to tolerate and process emotions instead of giving into old habits. This is a safe environment to face fears, overcome challenges and build confidence.
Do I need to have Horse experience?
No. No prior knowledge of horses and/or horsemanship is necessary.
All Eagala model programs take place on the ground. All the work is done on the ground with the horses front and center, deliberately unhindered and never ridden, and allowed to interact with the client as they wish. This creates the space for the client, with the support of the professional facilitators, to reflect, project, and make deep connections. * source Eagala.org
I am afraid of horses. Can I still benefit from this type of therapy?
Absolutely! When working with the Unbridled Healing team (MH, ES, and Horses), in the context of our safe and supportive environment, it may be your fear that proves especially effective in breaking through old patterns and revealing important insights.
What if I’m allergic to horses?
Our MH has an allergy to horse dander!! In fact, many “horse people” are allergic and still spend time with their equine partners. If you do have an allergy, we encourage you to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about appropriate medication (including an EpiPen, if appropriate), to manage your condition.
It may be that we find a way to work around the allergy – perhaps at some distance from the horses? Perhaps in another way entirely?) so that you can still have a complete experience with minimal physical impact on you!
What should I wear?
Wear something that is comfortable and appropriate to the weather. Remember you will spend most of your time outside or in the barn – and we operate under all but the most severe weather conditions. Due to our sometimes unpredictable maritime climate, we advise dressing in layers. Sessions might start out at one temperature, but become much cooler or warmer as they progress. Close-toed shoes are also required of all participants.
Horses are uniquely attuned to their environment, and to everyone in it. They are continually assessing the communication skills in their herds and also in the people they encounter. They then respond honestly and without hesitation to that information. This intuitive communication makes them invaluable resources in countless therapeutic and personal development scenarios!
I’m a “horse person”. Will I get anything out of this?
Absolutely. You might already be “ahead of the curve” a bit about what kind of feedback the horses can offer. That said, you may find that horses in this context respond differently than your horse(s) or differently than other horses you are used to interacting with in other ways.
In EAP, the interaction with our equine partners happens in a very different manner than traditional farms and horse barns. We are excited to invite you to view horses through a new lens.