Research on hippotherapy (horses) and other animal assisted therapies is promising, especially in the area of trauma. Horses, in particular, are exceedingly sensitive to the emotions of humans. An animal of prey, they are master non-verbal communicators and their ability to hold space and get us back into center is powerful.
Our principles are very different from my animal-assisted programs. First, all our animals are rescued from varying levels of torture, abuse, homelessness, and neglect. Second, our animals are part of an egalitarian model of compassion so no coercion is used. Our animals are never haltered, ridden, or forced to into spending time with humans here. When they do spend time with humans, they do so on their own accord. There is tremendous power in each coming to the intimate relationship and connection independently and on his or her own terms.
Our Rescue Animals, Rescue People Program (tm) was started by Chemakoh, a horse that had been beaten, chronically starved, and worked excruciatingly long hours despite his near-death condition. You can watch his incredible story here. His palpable trauma and nearness to death - and then his rehabilitation - have made him the perfect horse to help guide and connect with traumatized and grieving humans.
The degree to which you work with grief through the animals is something we will discuss during our initial time together. Especially with horses, because of a their nature of deep attentiveness, when we occupy space with a horse, we become naturally more aware and insightful, more mindful, of our own feelings, our posture and body, and we begin to notice more about our relationship to ourselves and others. As we become increasingly aware, our discursive minds calm and we learn to gradually reinhabit our bodies.
We invite our clients who visit to see the animal in relationship; changing the view from, "What can I get from this interaction?" to "What is happening in this relational exchange in this particular moment?" Most importantly, building a trusting and compassionate relationship with a rescued animal is one of the most profound experiences a human can have.
To schedule a visit, see the online calendar here.
Read more about our Selah House Carefarm here.
© Dr Joanne Cacciatore, 1999, 2011, 2016