Image of ripples on water.

Actuality Counselling offers Equine-assisted Therapy (EAT) as one of its services; the work is based on the EAGALA approach to EAT. If you feel that you might benefit from EAT, you are welcome to contact me to discuss.

Horses and humans have a long history of working together and this relationship has now extended into the area of healing. The idea of using horses in physical therapy can be traced back to ancient Greece; various ancient texts refer to the life-affirming relationship between humans and equines.

EAT involves working experientially with horses in a therapeutic context. It is used with individuals, couples or groups within counselling or coaching and can help to develop people's awareness and learning. It may be used as a complete therapeutic approach in its own right or may comprise one element of the work you do with your counsellor/ coach. EAT has helped people to address depression, anger, bereavement, lack of motivation, self-confidence and a wide range of other issues. It has also been used to develop teamworking and to tackle other work-related issues.

Image of equine-assisted therapy session.

Working with horses can be fun but it is serious fun. The experiential nature of EAT means that we relate to, and respond to, the horses in the here-and-now and learn from our experience. By reflecting on what happens in a session (observing the horses, describing what they are doing and how we perceive them, and expressing how we feel in relation to them), we can gain insight and understanding into ourselves, our behaviour, our relationships and our environment, and can develop a clearer sense of who we are.

Horses seem to have an ability to bypass the intellect and connect directly with our emotions. Through their size, sensitivity and spontaneity, they present us with powerful challenges and opportunities. They are social animals with personalities of their own and much of their behaviour may have evolved to help keep family groups together during seasonal migration in search of changing food sources, and to warn of possible predator attack. They are large and powerful, and can be intimidating; they respond to our level of authenticity; and they are sensitive to non-verbal communication and aspects of our behaviour of which we may be unaware. The effect of all this can be to encourage us to release the masks which we often employ in our daily lives and to become more aware of ourselves.

Image of equine-assisted therapy session.

As therapeutic work with horses gains momentum and becomes more well-known, organisations are being established to teach this way of working and encourage its practice. One such organisation is the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), a non-profit organisation which was established in 1996 and which has trained therapists and equine specialists all over the world. The video on the right provides an introduction to EAGALA's approach to EAT.

A recent study conducted at Sussex University identified 17 discrete facial movements in horses (three more than chimpanzees) which may give us insight into their emotional states. The study - which has catalogued eye, lip, nostril, chin and other movements - may begin to answer complex questions about the social, cognitive and physical characteristics of horses. It suggests that horses, with their complex and fluid social systems, also have an extensive range of facial movements and share many of these with humans and other animals.

ARTICLE: Not Just Horsing Around

Health professionals say horses can help to reflect our emotions and bring relief from addiction and stress.

The Guardian

Read the full article.

Tel: +44 (0)7941 488 550

e-mail:actualitycounselling@gmail.com

"By reflecting on what happens in an equine-assisted therapy session, we can gain insight and understanding into ourselves and our behaviour."

Image of equine-assisted therapy session.

The EAGALA approach to EAT is completely ground-based and does not involve any riding. An EAT team always consists of a qualified counsellor and an equine specialist (and, of course, one or more horses, who are equal members of the team). The team will consider your safety at all times but, equally, will want to ensure that all activities are spontaneous and that you are not unnecessarily restricted in what you do. The work involves performing tasks with, and around, horses. However, the main objective is not the completion of the tasks: the focus is on the process of attempting each task, and what you feel and become aware of while you are doing it.

Image of Steve Manning with horse.

Working with the team, gives you an opportunity to reflect on your behaviour, your fears and your sense of self. Metaphors are often used to describe what you are experiencing, what the horses are doing and how you perceive them. This can be revealing: what emerges may well be fed back into the session, thus enabling you to explore your world and the issues you face in it.

The following video provides a brief introduction to the EAGALA approach to Equine-assisted Therapy.

The video below illustrates how Equine-assisted Therapy has been used to help people suffering with addictions.