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Equine Assisted Healing® for Trauma

Equine Assisted Healing for TraumaEmotional and psychological trauma is caused by an extraordinarily stressful event that leaves one feeling vulnerable and helpless.  It can result from a combat trauma, or a single incident such as a car accident or assault, or it can be insidious and complex – building up over the course of time.

Most people are aware of severely traumatic experiences such as child abuse, sexual assault, war, or domestic violence.  However, trauma can also result from incidents such as loss of a pet, a fall, surgery, ongoing social stigma, a relationship breakup, or loss of a job.  Regardless of the type, trauma violates one’s sense of Self and safety in the world.  This traumatic breach of emotional and/or physical safety overwhelms an individual’s coping abilities and results in stress responses that can lead to fear, distrust, disassociation, and insecurity.

As stated by expert Bessel van der Kolk, “Trauma causes the body to be frozen in a state of fear, terror, and hypervigilance.”  During traumatic events, the brain’s speech and thinking areas shut down and trauma is imprinted in the deeper, emotional centers of the brain.  Therefore, “…words can’t integrate the disorganized sensations and action patterns that form the core imprint of the trauma.” [1]  Trauma literally becomes held in the body and “… is reenacted in breath, gestures, sensory perceptions, movement, emotion and thought.  One’s body gives the signal that it’s not safe, and your body keeps fighting an existing enemy.” [2]

Thus, healing requires reconnecting with the body and working with sensations and action tendencies. This includes being able to recognize and attend to one’s emotional states, sensations, and perceptions; as well as setting boundaries, releasing old, traumatic action patterns, and physically engaging in new movements and behaviors.

Equine Assisted Healing for TraumaOur Equine Assisted Healing (EAH)® program for trauma survivors is a hands on body, mind, and spirit form of therapy that utilizes engagement with horses to help clients release trauma and reconnect with themselves and their bodies.  As social, sentient beings, horses intuit our emotional states and respond accordingly – offering immediate feedback.  Because horses are completely authentic, and non-judgmental with what they experience, individuals recovering from trauma are able to quickly develop a trusting relationship, increasing their ability to learn and change.  Interaction with these amazing beings can help individuals tune in and regain confidence, freedom, and a sense of security – being able to keep yourself safe and move a 1200-pound animal creates an amazing sense of personal power!

Areas that are commonly addressed through Equine Assisted Healing® include:

  • Trust
  • Boundaries
  • Confidence
  • Assertiveness
  • Communication
  • Relationships
  • Embodied Mindfulness
  • Problem Solving


[1] van der Kolk http://www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/Networker.pdf


[2] (van der Kolk, in Trauma & the Body, 2006, p. xxiv)

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