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Guest blog Groeifabriek: Using a horse as a therapy horse? Isn’t that weird?

Guest blog Groeifabriek: Written bij Marjolein from Dutch Draft Astor.

Using a horse for your client’s learning goals? Isn’t that weird, levitating or basically just daycare instead of concrete work on learning objectives? Almost everyone has heard that working with animals, horses in particular, is said to have a healing effect. ‘Very nice’ I always thought then, ‘but that’s between your ears, you know’.

Horse coaching not the right term

Yet it did trigger something in me; I have been crazy about horses myself for years and how cool would it be if I could combine my care work with my passion? But, critical as I am, if I was going to use horses for my clients, it had to make a very concrete contribution to their learning process. After much searching on the internet, visiting open days and seeking information from training providers, I found that the term ‘horse coaching’ did not actually suit me. Much as I am now convinced that horses can certainly be used to support growth processes in people, it remained too vague for me.

Using horse as a tool, not as the coach!

Horses are a fantastic addition to a treatment, counselling or coaching session. However, the result of a session stands or falls with the professionalism of the counsellor. As far as I am concerned, using horses is not the goal, but a means of development. Horses can certainly have a positive influence on people, but they are not the therapist themselves. In my view, it would also be unfair to burden our horses with the task of developing humans.

So I do not let my client coach, direct or guide the horse independently, but I use the horse to create learning situations. The horse is part of a situation set up by me. Because a horse obviously does not speak with words, has a completely different body from humans, and has its own agenda (in which the horse’s own priorities come first), working with such a horse can be quite a challenge. And all the more so when, for instance, you have to convince the horse to go along with your plan or idea.

For many clients, working with a horse is a pleasant change. It breaks the routine and sometimes a default mindset: the focus is shifted, causing tension, fear and limiting beliefs to temporarily recede into the background. This creates a situation where there is room for growth and learning.

Horses need to feel comfortable

What about the horses, what do they think? Personally, I find it very important that the horses I work with have an escape: that they can leave the situation. A lot of the work we do is therefore in freedom, so the horses are really free to go as they please. But that is very rare, the horses are usually already at the gate when the clients arrive and after a holiday they are always very motivated to be allowed to work again.

It is important to me that the horses feel comfortable, both in the situation and in their bodies. In practice, this means that the horses already know and explore the obstacles and attributes I use before I start working with them. This stimulates the urge to explore and makes them feel confident. So my horses don’t turn their backs on fright training 😉 . Physical health is of paramount importance, and good management is the basis for that. Unlimited roughage, the right amounts of vitamins and minerals and where necessary an extra supplement to support resistance or metabolism. Because if you want to take good care of others, it starts with yourself. In this case, it starts with the horses; if they feel good, they can also be there for my clients.

If you are curious and would like to take a look at our practice and stable, take a look at one of the socials. Here you can follow our daily adventures and see which HELTIE horse products we really cannot do without in our grooming routine.

Follow Marjolein and her horses on Instagram via @Dutch_Draft_Astor and her work via @groeifabriek.

Did you know that Astor, the horse from Marjolein is on the label of HELTIE horse Triphala?


Photo: Sab photography

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