Horses have always had a special place in my heart. As a young girl, I rode horses competitively in horse shows, running barrels and pole bending. It was one of the most enjoyable hobbies that I’ve ever had (and I’ve tried almost everything). In addition to my horse riding, my mom grew up with race horses, my late Grandfather had a spectacular quarter horse named Comet, Jr. that was faster than a speeding bullet. Horses are much more than beautiful animals to me, the love I have for them is in my blood.
While I’ve been around horses for pleasure, for riding and racing, I’d never been around horses for therapy. Until yesterday. As I’m contemplating a career shift, I found myself searching the internet for something called “Equine Assisted Therapy” when I stumbled upon a website called EAGALA, which is Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. “Huh,” I thought, “this sounds interesting.” Interesting is an understatement, I was blown away. While I’d always thought of horse therapy as riding, this Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is all about being in the presence of horses as you work through not only your physical barriers, but your emotional, psychological, spiritual, and mental barriers. Without ever getting on the back of a horse, people experience huge growth and self discovery just by being in an arena with these animals. I read through pages of information on various websites, more enthralled and excited with the more I learned.
I then searched my area for someone who did this type of work and found Denim n Dirt, and fell in love. Dr. Wick, who runs the facility with her equine specialist, Steve, offered an Open Barn yesterday, where I was able to tour the facility, spend time with the animals and even participate in an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy session. It’s difficult to put into words, but this was one of the most powerful things that I’ve ever experienced. A group of about 10 people participated in a group demo with the horses and gathered to discuss the feelings and experiences after the exercise was over and I was blown away at the discoveries I made about myself and also the vulnerability and sharing that took place among this group of strangers. Horses are supremely empathetic animals and have a keen awareness of our emotional and mental state. When we are interacting with them, we project ourselves and our beliefs onto them in ways we don’t even realize. It’s amazing to see how Dr. Wick observes and picks up on patterns as we interacted with the horses.
Dr. Wick is a licensed clinical psychologists who has been practicing for over 30 years. She has a traditional in-office practice, but she told us that in all her years of working with patients, those that are willing to go through Equine Assisted Psychotherapy typically progress quicker and heal much faster through their work with the horses than just meeting with her in the office. It was a beautiful day for me as I was open to the possibilities and the power of horses to offer help and healing to those in need. As the late Winston Churchill stated, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” I can’t wait to go back to Denim n Dirt. Thank you Dr. Wick and Steve for opening your barn to show us the power of your work!