We believe in the power of equine assisted mental health. We have seen over and over again how beneficial and powerful this work is, it changes people’s lives for the better and supports them to develop skills to live fuller, healthier lives.
After working with thousands of clients we have also seen how quickly this work brings up deep emotion, past trauma, childhood issues and core wounds. This can happen within minutes of the client sighting the horse, before they even enter the paddock or arena. We believe that to ensure client safety these emerging emotions and trauma induced symptoms and behaviours need to be held safely and gently. To have the skills and knowledge to do this takes time and training. We want to acknowledge that trauma is complex and different for every client, there is not one formula to suit everyone, the therapist needs to have a whole toolbox of skills that they can offer to support their client. As a therapist you will spend a lifetime building this toolbox and gaining skills and knowledge to meet your clients needs.
We find that clients with complex needs including severe anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-harm, depression and trauma backgrounds are often drawn to this work as a last resort. We feel that as trainers in this field we must provide thorough and adequate training to support our graduates to be able to work with these clients safely with the horses and to know when to refer on.
Firstly, to be a safe therapist able to do this kind of deep work you need to have looked at your own issues and triggers. If you have not walked your own path of healing, as soon as your client deepens into their issue you will unconsciously try to pull them back out, this is frustrating for your client as they will want to deepen to get more insight and understanding into their issue, they will then feel unsafe and doubt your ability and capacity to hold them. Or you may even unknowingly project your issue onto your client or try to fix them out of your own need to feel useful- this is not therapy!
Secondly, there is so much to learn about people and then about the complex interaction that occurs between people and horses. Even after you have studied counselling, psychology or psychotherapy working therapeutically with horses requires a whole new set of knowledge and skills.
Horses are intuitive, somatic beings, you need to learn how to understand their communication, their subtle signs and be open to their input in the process. They will pick up a lot more information than you can about your client, and they can get straight to the issue if you learn how to understand and allow space for their input. Even people that have had horses their entire lives often need to re- learn how to see the horse and how to be with the horse.
This therapy requires so much of the therapist, you must get out of your head and be in your heart, you must learn how to work somatically and mindfully, in order to do this you must become aware of your own patterns, beliefs and behaviours and work on being present to yourself and the other.
Our course offers so much face to face training because this is such a somatic process, as a therapist you are seeing, sensing and feeling what is happening from moment to moment- this requires lots of practice, you are watching and sensing yourself, your horses and your client, you are then drawing upon your mental health skills and knowledge to support the journey of the session to help the client to become more aware of themselves and to make the process meaningful and useful to the client.
Your knowledge and skill is integral to the health and safety of the horse, the more skilled you are in this work the less chance your horse has of being used and burning out. We see unskilled therapists using their horses to give their clients something all of the time- this is not equine assisted mental health, this is entertainment. To make a horse do meaningless tasks over and over so that a person can feel more empowered, we feel is abusive and does not teach the client anything about relationships, themselves or what they need to see about themselves to illicit real meaningful change.
Our course offers 60 days of face to face training over 19 months as well as 25 hours per week of self-directed study, you learn therapeutic techniques and the theory behind why we use them, you learn how to apply these to working with the horses, you learn how to safely handle and communicate with horses and you learn how to work in a trauma informed, safe, ethical and professional way.
Our training takes so long as we incorporate the knowledge and skills required to support clients of different ages from different backgrounds, you will learn about trauma and how to work in a trauma informed way both in room-based therapy and with the horses, you will learn about how we develop and how our childhood experiences shape that development. You will learn relevant counselling and psychotherapy theories, why we draw upon them and how they apply to working with the horses. You will learn about horse psychology and, you will have the opportunity to work with lots of different horses so that you can observe how each horse has their own personality and their own take on life like we do. You will have the opportunity to work with real clients, so that you graduate feeling competent in your skills and knowledge. You will get support and guidance in setting up your business and you will belong to an amazing, supportive community that continues to grow and develop.
Our course is as long as it is because we care;
We don’t believe that our course is expensive for what you get. The average price for a Diploma of Counselling according to the Myskills website is $9900, on top of this you get training in equine assisted mental health and training in handling horses and how to supervise others in handling horses. Many people argue that they could just go and study online and it’s true that you could, however, I’m not sure how effective you would be as a therapist. To be a good therapist requires a lot of self-care and a lot of work on yourself. Therapy is about people, learning to work with them and read their body language, learning to respond to them and hold space for them. Learning how to apply all of the theory to working with the horses and learning how to build rapport, safety and trust into the relationship required to do any therapeutic work.
Many of the leaders in the mental health field are pointing out how we heal through the body and in relationship, this requires a movement away from how we have traditionally done therapy- they are finding that it requires much more than just talking about problems. These same leaders are also proposing that much of the issues that our clients present with are from childhood, so we need the skills and knowledge to work with these issues in a relational, somatic way which requires us as therapists to look at and own our stories and our pain.
We are so excited for the new advances in the Mental Health field and for the opportunity to contribute to training amazing, effective, safe and ethical equine assisted mental health practitioners.