New in 2016 – Hoofbeats and Hearbeats

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River of Change Horse Program

One arena. One or more horses, usually loose. One or more humans on the ground looking to improve their life. A variety of props and equipment. This is the foundation of equine assisted growth and learning.

Hidden Creek Ranch is offering  an Equine Assisted Growth and Learning (EAGL) program on 50 acres at Mindemoya, Ontario. EAGL is a model of helping people push through personal issues that is growing in popularity around the world. It is useful for doing work with many facets of our mental, emotional and physical health. In EAGL, horses are the tools. All activities are conducted on the ground, there is no riding. The horses are allowed to be horses and the goal is not so much the completion of the activity rather how the client(s) work through it and the places of discovery revealed through it. We are offering single sessions; several sessions that build on one another and workshops.

Why Horses?

Horses are majestic and intimidating. Interacting with a horse can help create confidence and can be rich with metaphors in dealing with other areas of life. Horses can be a metaphor for relationships. Horses are helpful in this therapy as they are social animals and have distinct personalities and places within the herd. What works with one horse may not work with another. They also are prey animals and because of this they are aware of their environment and non-verbal aspects of communication which encourages the participants to look more closely at their own non-verbal aspects of communication and how this impacts relationships and movement towards attaining goals. In working with horses issues that arise include those of

  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Boundaries
  • Affection
  • Impact of non-verbal communication
  • Leadership
  • Patience
  • Assertiveness

Working with horses in a learning, personal growth and even psychotherapeutic environment can create a non-threatening mirror where individuals can look at themselves with compassion, objectivity and understanding. By connecting and associating the horses’ experience to their own, it encourages getting in touch with one’s own feelings, beliefs, thought patterns and behaviors moving towards the exploration and experience of making different choices. EAGL and working with horses is an encounter for change and growth, individuals integrate learning through direct experience. It promotes change through action.
People who know horses understand the power of the horses to influence people in positive and powerful ways. The benefits of work ethic, responsibility; assertiveness, communication, and healthy relationships has long been recognized and is gaining popularity around the world. The field of Equine Assisted Growth and Learning is just one approach to finding positive results in your life through working with horses.
The size and power of a horse creates a natural opportunity for some to gain confidence and overcome fear. Accomplishing a task involving the horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides for wonderful metaphors when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.
Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds and a strict social hierarchy. They have distinct personalities, attitudes, and moods. They would rather be with their herd than solo. An approach that seems to work with one horse, does not necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. They like to play. In other words, horses provide many opportunities for metaphorical and experiential learning. Using metaphors, in discussion or activity, is an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups.
Horses require work time and attention, whether in caring for them or working with them. In an era when instant gratification is the desire and the ‘easy way’ the norm, horses require people to be engaged in physical and mental work to be successful—a valuable characteristic in all aspects of life.
Importantly, because they are pros at all the nuances of body language, horses have the ability to mirror exactly what human body language is telling them. People will complain “The horse is stubborn. The horse is angry This horse reminds me of my _________.” Etc. But the lesson to be learned is that if they change themselves, the horses respond differently and the lesson can be applied in their personal life. Horses are honest which makes them especially powerful messengers.

(Adapted from ‘Fundamentals of EAGALA Model Practice’ manual)

“It’s pretty good what you are doing. It has good potential for not only our clientèle, as there is potential for staff team-building as well…good job overall!”
Eli
“It seems like a great opportunity to provide alternatives to helping clients and the connection to an animal has great effect!”
Paula
“It was great. The tour–seeing the setup was good–like the donkeys–and to actually do the activities that clientèle would do was great!”
Thomas
“I’m sold.”
Rene
“Of course, I had an awesome experience, so impressionable that I feel different today…like a champ.”
Dianne

How does EAGL differ from Recreational Horsemanship and Riding?

We are often asked how EAGL differs from horseback riding? How will the EAGL services benefit my family, child or client more than lessons at the local riding facility?
Although spending any time with horses, whether it is pleasure or sport riding, is certainly beneficial mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, EAGL offers the following benefits to those seeking to push through some personal issues and enrich their personal or professional life:

  • Specific goals, objectives, outcomes are identified and documented
  • The focus is on human skills, not horse skills
  • EAGL sessions are focused and designed to address mental health and human development issues quickly, directly, and effectively
  • Everything done with the horse is related to what is happening at home, in school, at work, and in relationships(metaphorical learning)
  • EAGL activities are designed to best create metaphors to a real life
  • True-selves surface more quickly because it is hard to focus on an EAGL task and on performing for people at the same time
  • The focus is on identifying and modifying patterns of behaviour, thoughts, and beliefs
  • The focus is on non-verbal communication
  • The focus is on skills to improve communication with people vs becoming a horse whisperer
  • At least 95% of the work is done on the ground. This allows for more attention on the human skills needing to be address vs the time spent on correct and safe riding procedures (which focuses on horse skills)
  • Whereas riding/horsemanship lessons tend to be more directive in education the ‘how to’ of horses, EAGL sessions are non-directive. This non directive approach benefits clients by:
    • allowing for opportunities to problem-solve and be creative
    • increasing self-discovery, self-confidence, and leadership
    • creating an environment where clients discover what is right and wrong for themselves, which provides the opportunity to choose a more successful, happier life vs the teacher/therapist/riding instructor directing what is wrong or right or how to do it (EAGL is solution-oriented approach and encourages the power of choice)
  • Clients experience the reality of choices, attitudes, and consequences

(Adapted from ‘Fundamental of EAGALA Model Practice’ manual)

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6565 Hwy 542 Mindemoya, ON