My Therapeutic Riding, Driving, and ESMHL certifications are from PATH International. Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. Prospect Riding Center is a PATH Member Center, they are our governing industry standard.
We recently attended a conference for our industry. One of the topics covered was Anxiety Disorders. It was very interesting to learn different approaches toward different sample situations.
At times the horse can be such a help and sense of security for some, especially if the anxiety is associated with self confidence situations. Building trust with a therapy horse is rewarding and a true confidence builder.
Muscle memory also comes into play, which is often associated with many physical activities. The goal being practice makes perfect. I believe practice makes a habit. If the practice is incorrect how does that bring perfection?
If we apply these principals to a session with a horse, guided by a Therapeutic Riding Instructor, can we also build better social skills?
Social skills and horses, huh?
Let's take Babe our herd boss mare as an example. With Babe in the stall, ready for a client she will nap. Depending on the clients independence we instruct how to approach your horse, put on the halter with lead rope, and bring them to their grooming area. Considering Babe is napping peacefully, the client has to remember she is still a prey animal and has a fight or flight mentality. Babe needs to know she is being approached and her rider must be alert to her body language. Are her ears pinned back is she turning her hind quarters to face them?
This exact thing happened! We start by having the client observe one of our team members getting Babe. The Instructor is then able to draw their attention to the body language and ask questions as to what they would need to do. This team approach allows for safety, and also to build upon the previous lessons learned.
As one person entered the stall Babe ever so slowly started to walk away. As she was approached again her ears pinned back. At this point the horse handler takes the role of leader and the client gets to see just what could happen.
The lesson gets a little more believable, takes some of the fear to a more reasonable level, and allows for a great learning moment. That moment can build trust with those in authority, our word is true, and within self, I can do that!
Next time we feel apprehensive or anxious, let's just see what lesson awaits.