Working with horses has a phenomenal impact on us, the wordless communication and judgement free relationship allows us to be who-ever we want to be, and creates a therapeutic environment like no other.
It is not only horses, any connection with animals is therapeutic, though, there is something about horses that influences us differently- whether it is the power of riding such a magnificent creature or the quite we gain around them, horses are the best therapists.
When pursuing horsemanship as a career and entering the show ring, you might encounter ego and competition- sometimes a healthy competition that will push you forward and some that will be hurtful. We learn to separate that- after all, if you are passionate enough about something it will quite down what others might say.
As a therapeutic riding instructor I come across many success stories about how horses have helped people, but as a horse woman I know how much horses have helped me.
Horses heal. Horsemanship becomes a habit, that turns to a lifestyle, that turns to a mindset.
When studying therapeutic riding you learn about the facts- how by teaching riding you can help someone gain life skills, social skills and improve physical aspects as well.
And as an instructor and therapist I encourage more; not only riding for 30 min, but actually understanding how to work with the horse, how to think horsemanship.
Horsemanship to me is many things, a lot more than entering the barn and noticing if your horse's food is ok, or spotting a lame horse. To me, it is a state of mind, and don't get me wrong, I am still working on that.
It is the ability to offer an idea instead forcing opinion.
It is asking Why? Instead of What?
Being respectful instead of demanding respect.
Passionate, Patient, Persistent.
It is talking without a voice.
Communicating with the mind and body, building on actions more than words
Knowing that you have power, and yet, not creating fear
It is choosing to challenge yourself every day, learning from any one and having a home
anywhere- as long as there is a horse there.
And so much more.
I have learned that as a therapist and instructor- the more I treat people and my students like I treat horses- the better teacher I am, and the greatest success I have.
No, you don't need to expect you students to become horsemen, and pursuit it for life, but you need to be able to teach them what it means, and create a new mindset- do not force it, offer it. Allow them to choose the right path, let them make mistakes, but acknowledge even the smallest effort.
Teaching "Therapeutic Horsemanship" is much simpler than it seems- all you got to do is leave the ego out and look at your student as an equal partner. Every time we touch our horse- we are teaching him something, and so as are students. Ask yourself how can your students help you, then- how can you help them. You will find that more than once the answers will connect to one another.
You are only a dictionary- offering first hand translation for the rider, helping them learn the horse's language.
Once you have that in your mind, the therapy will begin without even trying.
Please notice that I am setting aside the process and right now talking on the basics and first encounter with a student- we proceed with each one differently, and adjust our program to specific needs, just the same as what we would do with a horse.
I will discuss more about therapeutic aspects of horsemanship and horse riding. This is only a taste of what's to come next.
Feel free to let me know why you think horsemanship is therapeutic? And how the horses helped you on your journey?