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  • Writer's pictureRachelle Millar

Why can't I ride?

Well actually you can ride, but the real question is what is the difference between horse therapy and horse riding lessons?


So let's start with me. I work with children, adults, and families to process and manage their emotions. Human beings have a lot of emotions. Often humans are okay with feeling joy and excitement, but we aren't so okay with processing sadness, despair, fear, and anger.


When those emotions are suppressed, they can surprise us, our families, friends or teachers and cause us even more hurt and unhappiness. Especially when they jump out at inopportune moments. When we are overwhelmed.


Worse still those feelings (that we sometimes call bad) get stuck, and then we keep feeling them all the time. We then have unhelpful coping mechanisms that make life even worse. Think of those sugary treats or simply shutting off from those feelings and not wanting to think about it. Or if things that adults are talking about are too hard to process. Getting stressed, acting out, or behaviour that is seen as bad or anti-social or withdrawing from friends. Creating a cycle of pain. But we don't see it like that, we just carry on, disassociated from these feelings and ultimately disassociated from many things in life.


Here's where the horses come in.


You see, horses are very present, in the moment. They are able to pick up on all the things that we have suppressed and aren't showing to the world or our family and friends anymore.


So when I introduce clients to the herd, they pick up on all of this. And they react to it.


Which as a person who wants to help people to heal, that is a fantastic place to start.


But I need the parents or my clients to understand that we have to start from the start. And if the horse is reacting like this, perhaps the child is too.... and we have to work together to understand each others boundaries and needs. And this might be the first time that the child has been able to express their needs. Or the parent able to see or the client (as an adult) able to see their own needs.


Often the counselling room or the paddock is the first place that many of my clients get to experience stating their needs and holding their boundaries. The horses do it, and this can be confronting.


Should a session involve a client riding a horse before the horse or the client is ready? I am asking the client and the horse to shut down and disassociate. Thereby negating all the learning and possibilities for growth that could have happened.


There is a time and a place for riding therapy. Physically riding a horse is hugely therapeutic for engaging muscles that are underdeveloped. Riding for the Disabled (RDA) is a brilliant space for this. They have horses trained to carry passengers without any level of emotional relationship. The movement develops the core physical structures.


Dr. Bruce Perry, the child neuroscientist who has studied developmental trauma, will look at what speaks to a child or adult at the age that is preverbal, this is where horse therapy or rhythm can help the brain connect the dots. The child does not need to ride a horse to do this. They are able to connect to the horse, through brushing, leading and simply breathing and regulating their emotions. All of this becomes a space to practice these skills.


There are many places that you can go to learn how to ride a horse. Or simply have a riding experience along a beach or a trail.


If you are to connect to your own feelings about riding a horse, what do you think about? How do you feel? What would you ask the trail guide? What sort of horse would you like, and why? All of these questions will give you answers to why I don't rush to offer a ride on the horses that I have at Your Point.


One-hour Horse therapy sessions are $150 for as many people as you like. In that time, we can explore the power of equine therapy. What you and your family might like to get out of continuing to have sessions or simply learn in that session a lot about yourself, horses and mammals emotional radar and what to pay attention to.


Send me a message to learn more.





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