FARMINGTON, Utah – A unique form of therapy involving four-legged companions is growing in popularity, and recently therapists from around the nation gathered in Farmington to learn more about the benefits of using horses in therapy.
The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association uses horses in counseling, and they said the practice is becomingly increasingly popular.
Jackie Kaschel works with Peace Ranch in Traverse City, Michigan and was among those who traveled to Farmington.
“This is an experiential model of therapy where you go to an arena or a facility that has horses,” Kaschel said.
EGALA Board Member Rick Jerez said horses are perfect therapy animals due to their nature. He said they differ from humans in that they aren’t predators.
“And prey have to have a certain sense about what's going on with a predator... and so the horses have a way of getting a hold of what's inside of us, what's going on with us, and having a really good feel about that,” Jerez said.
The event was the 16th annual EGALA training, and therapists from across the country attended. Some cited personal experiences as their reason for coming.
“My husband was very sick, and we would go and visit the horses and we both noticed that we felt better,” recalled Jan Tharp, who is with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Michigan.
After her husband passed away, Tharp continued going through the programs and even began to volunteer.
“It just had a profound effect in helping me move through grief,” Tharp said.
Thrap now helps veterans suffering from PTSD. Therapists said horses have a sense of empathy.
“They’re uniquely wired to be aware of their surroundings and to interact with their surroundings in a way that harnesses their intuition, and so they're just very sensitive beings," Kaschel said.
EGALA has more than 4,500 members in 50 countries spread across the globe. For more information, visit their website.