What is it, Equine Facilitated Practice?
People want to know what it is, “Equine Facilitated Practice”. My heart sinks and I want to say, “Just come and have a session, then you'll know!”. And of course that is already in a nutshell what I offer with the horse facilitated sessions, using experience to open up new insights and self-awareness.
When I did my practitioner training with LEAP*, one of the key exercises was “The Journey of my Life”. In an arena there were a number of simple obstacles, and my job was to name and describe them as important stations in my life so far. Then I was asked to walk around them with “H”, the horse I had chosen to work with, a magnificent grey, experienced in working with a great number of clients. He is a horse with a distinct aura of calm, self-possessed intelligence. “H” had stopped, walked ahead, or determinedly returned to a certain obstacle with some of the trainees before me, but with me he walked around this journey of my life in energetic, matching strides, his nose right next to my elbow all the way around. It felt to me like a strong, supportive ally with a huge, sunny energy was by my side every step of the way.
My life journey contained some harrowing stories. When I had described how I had felt during my walk around, the group expressed surprise about the huge smile I had had on my face during the exercise. Some asked if I was afraid of making myself vulnerable by crying. I thought about this for a moment and then said that the reason for my big smile was the great joy I was feeling having this wonderful being accompanying me with such steadfast, positive energy. After another moment's thought I did cry. I suddenly realised that never in my life before had I had this feeling that there was someone by my side, walking with me, no matter what.
In the past, I had found that coaching and counselling helped me to get many intellectual insights about my past and resulting patterns of behaviour. How these might not serve me well in my current life. Yet somehow these insights did not seem to make a real difference to how I lived. I would decide to change something, but my habits would soon reassert themselves. Then I started having lessons in the Alexander Technique*. By noticing myself, how I really am right now, mind, body, and soul, and suspending judgement, I realised that certain insights I had had for years “in my head” became real for me. What I mean by “real” is that I can feel them, they have become emotionally, even physically, true for me. This seems to lead to genuine changes which cannot be forced purely by “deciding” to make them.
Why then, horses? Horses are half a ton of vibrantly alive, fast-acting, awareness processors. Their very lives depend on it. A split-second less of picking up on what's going on and taking appropriate action will be the difference between life and death for them. So they process energy, intention, and other physical cues from multiple sources in a heartbeat, long before a human has even noticed a thing, never mind worked out what to do.
This is where we hook in and use what they have to offer to us. We let them tell us what is going on with ourselves. We do that easily and readily, because they don't judge (no time, not interested), they don't lie ( don't know how), and they (luckily) find us interesting enough to want to engage with us. Horses have co-evolved with us for 10,000 years or so, and that means they had time to work us out a bit more. Plus, there are a lot of “side benefits” to working with horses - being in nature, the healing power of the connection with such a powerful yet peaceful animal, increased confidence from handling ourselves in the company of a herd of horses.
So, if you are stuck with something in your life, be it relationships, career, or an emotional matter like shock or grief, a horse might well be the one to move you on (sometimes quite literally). The story from my training shows what kind of things we might do. There are many more exercises and games to have fun with. A lot of the time we will just be with the horses, take the pressure out, feel ourselves as we are today, then go from there. We will use breathing and bodywork, mindfulness, metaphors, story telling, and anything else we might find useful. The main thing is, as the great Barbara K. Rector* says, “you cannot do anything wrong in Adventures in Awareness”. All emotion is information, and we want that information!
If this sounds like something you would like to try out, use the contact form on this site to send me a message or call me on 07903 439147 for a chat. I offer private sessions for individuals, couples, and families, and a variety of group sessions and day retreats. You will find details for these under the “Sessions” and “Events” buttons.
Sessions involve working with the horses on the ground. Prior experience with horses is not necessary. Sturdy shoes or boots, and weather appropriate clothing are recommended.
*LEAP - http://www.leapequine.com – I trained with LEAP because the two owners and course tutors, Ella Jones and Mike Delaney, have such extensive and deep experience in working with a great variety of clients and needs. I also like their ethics, they emphasise the co-facilitator role of the horses, and teach unconditional respect for the client's process.
*The Alexander Technique - http://www.redskybluemoon.co.uk/Alexander-Technique.php – I have been having lessons in the technique, unbelievably for around 10 years now, with the great John Carpmael. Apart from learning who I am and what I want, I also learned from him how to work with clients in a way that starts with myself and honours their experience. Also, how to have fun with it all! His book on the technique, “Wake up & Notice with Interest” ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B011S1MRYG?*Version*=1&*entries*=0 ) is not just a brilliant manual for the Alexander Technique, but even more so a joyful and inspiring manual for change.
* Barbara K. Rector - http://www.adventuresinawareness.net – the “Grande Dame” and original thinker of Equine Facilitated education and therapy. She did it all from the ground up with her centre in Tuscon, Arizona, and all the current teachings on EFL/P in the English-speaking world originate from her practice. Her book “Adventures in Awareness” (https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Awareness-Learning-Help-Horses/dp/1420853929) gives many vivid descriptions of client and group experiences.