All Kinds of News for October 05, 2016
Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for young people ages 10-17, offers an equine therapy program with a very unique perspective. At Trails, most of the horses involved in equine therapy have experienced some form of trauma. Many live in local rescue shelters and exhibit behavioral or emotional issues.
Trails helps in the rehabilitation of these horses through their equine therapy program, since many students at Trails struggle with behavioral or emotional issues of their own. This similarity helps students relate to the horses. Within the equine therapy program, horses and students have a mutually beneficial relationship in which horses help heal students and students help heal the horses.
“The horse’s brain is very similar to an adolescent’s brain,” says Anne Westall, Equine Specialist at Trails Carolina. “Because of this, they are very perceptive to the emotions and behaviors of others. Our equine therapy program is especially helpful for students struggling with anxiety or depression, or for students who are adopted. Many of the horses have struggled with similar issues, such as feelings of defiance, lack of motivation, or reactive behavior due to being raised in high stress situations.”
Students get to know the horses and choose the horse they feel a connection with. They then groom and really get to know and understand the horse’s personality. Then, by leading their horse in ground training and challenging obstacles, the student teaches the horse how to respond to stress rather than having a strong emotional reaction. The horse in turn teaches the students about relationship intelligence and the ways in which self-regulation positively affects the relationship.
Every week, one equine therapy session is set aside for undemanding time in which students bond with the horses without being assigned a specific task or activity. This undemanding time deepens the bond between horse and human. It also emphasizes the importance of spending quality time in all relationships within a student’s life.
During equine therapy, students learn the importance of considering the feelings of others. In order to keep the horses calm within equine therapy, students must remain calm themselves. This regulation of emotions is a transferable skill which students can utilize long after they graduate from Trails.
“Many students begin equine therapy thinking that they will help the traumatized, struggling horse heal without realizing it will help them as well,” says Jason McKeown, MS, LMFT, CPE, DCC, Family Clinical Director at Trails Carolina. “By considering how the horse is feeling within their relationship, they begin considering the feelings of others within their human relationships as well.”
Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program based just outside of Asheville, North Carolina that offers a multi-dimensional wilderness therapy model to troubled adolescents, ages 10-17. Trails capitalizes upon the profound effects of a student’s wilderness experience, and then combines that experience with strong clinical assessments and therapy.