Horse, horse, horse, horse… he is a horse – and nothing else – but that is very much enough!
The woman, who had been feeling depressed for a long time, and felt she could not climb out of her own rabbit hole, and not really describe to her therapist what was "wrong" with her, had been offered to come and have equine-assisted therapy. She did not really know what that was, so she googled it. She found a lot of web pages describing facilities, therapists, organizations, and models telling about how fantastic equine-assisted therapy is. It seemed that finally, she was going to have some therapy that would help. She could read about how horses would be able to read her body language, how they intuitively would know what she needs, how they would comfort her and how they would guide her towards healing. And it wouldn't take long. All she had to do was to come to the horses and trust them and the process – and she would feel a sense of true connection, acceptance, peace, and belonging. She would finally be healed and mended…
As practitioners in the field of EAP/L, we need to ask ourselves some questions
- How do we describe our work to our customers and clients?
- How do we describe what the horse does in this?
- Why do we keep on promising outcomes there is no guarantee for?
- Why do we feel a need to say it will be a fast transformation?
- Where do we put the responsibility for "healing" in how we describe what we do?
I find the current trend to turn the horse into something he is not very dangerous. Not only to the horse but to the client/customer as well – and to the practitioners. What kind of picture are we painting of our field of work?
I find words as heart rate coherence, matching energetic fields, soul to soul experiences, transformational experiences, being held by the universe, having sacred spiritual meetings with as well ancestors as future version of oneself, being in synchrony, being one with the "oneness", experiencing magic and healing, being truly met, being seen through – all of this that horses can provide – I can go on and on and on…
I never find words as hard work, disappointments, mud, and rain feeling rejected, being shown and "told" about one's projections, meeting one's own shortcomings, less nice sides, warmth and flies, horses who seems disinterested in the work, horses who comply, inability to connect, fear of doing it all wrong, being looked at by a treatment team when you try to figure out what they want you to do…
Or the more quiet breakthroughs and insights that come in therapy and that a horse can help you celebrate by less fairy-tale inspired fantasies and catharsis moments and more real here and now experiences as a nudge by a muzzle, a warm breath, a present horse… or less cozy moments which also can bring a lot of insight and value – also when the horse walks away from you, rather graze than look at you, walk into, turn his butt to you, prefers the provider's company before yours?
What are we trying to turn our own field into? Why are we doing this? Is not what the horse actually brings enough? Or who he actually is – enough?
A horse in equine-assisted anything… is actually facilitating growth in humans by being himself. Which we take away by making up fairy tales about what happens in EAP/L. It is exactly that ability to not care about what we want him to be – that is helping a client/customer to see more clearly. It is the horse's ability to not give one nickel about our own pictures of ourselves, pictures about who he is, about anything we make up inside of ourselves – that is helping anyone see what actually is. And it is not until we can see what is – that we can truly change.
With our fantasies – we will not be able to see that the change we then reach – is not sustainable. We are just trading one fantasy for another.
The horse won't save us, won't save humanity, do not care about what happened or did not happen to us, do not care about our dreams, hopes, disappointments – not about our successes – or failures, our crimes or our heroinism. He does not care about our background or our future – our tragedies, sorrows, losses. He does not care about your name, your age, your status, your gender, your health, your earnings. He sees you at the moment he meets you. And if you see him back, he might engage with you – in the here and now moment. That lasts as long as it lasts. He will know if he met you before but will not have an opinion about if you have changed, or not. He will not know if he is going to meet you again. He does not care about "time", or the lack of it. He does not care about how you want to present yourself; he only sees you as you are. And it is your choice if you will see him back, as he is.
How can we sensibly describe the work that is done in EAP/L? That honors what the horse is bringing – his ability to be a horse – and his ability to respond as a horse – to whatever you do or do not do? How this becomes a point of reference for a client/customer – and invites self-exploration and exploration of relationships? How he will help you see your projections – if the provider does not put their own into play?
Is equine-assisted anything… about the horse? Yes. And no. Yes, because he brings in himself – and by doing that – he opens up a lot of possibilities for change – as many as the therapist knows how to work with… His presence is a valuable tool for the therapist. But it is also a valuable presence to the client/customer – because it will seemingly be about the horse… while it actually is about themselves... That is part of making dealing with one's own inside more emotionally safe. And no – because in EAP/L – it is about the client or the customer, not about the horse. The horse is not in any need for personal and transformational change. He does not need to become himself; he already is himself (as we all are, but humans tend not to know that).
And as in all transformative work – it takes as long as it takes. That will be individual and depend on a lot of factors.
Will it feel fantastic, magic, healing, connected, beautiful? Hell no, not most of the time. Will there be great, even fantastic moments of breakthroughs and joy or quiet moments of insight and growth? Yes. But anyone who thinks therapy or even personal development is about constant blissfulness and high-speed transformational growth – is in my opinion delusional.
Why do we keep on painting the picture of the magic unicorn (or other equally reality distant pictures)? What is it with us providers that make us turn horses into the pictures of them we have in our heads?
A Horse, is a Horse, of Course – but he is the Horse you have in front of you – not the Horse you have in your head. If providers join in with clients and customers in projecting what "not is" onto the Horse – how will anyone ever find their way out into the here and now, themselves – and truly change, not change fantasies, but change their reality – into what they want it to be?
Or – are horses able to perform this "job" – regardless of how much projections we as providers put on them? Maybe. Maybe they do it despite them. But I refer to the fictional woman at the beginning of this text. We as providers have a responsibility to talk in a responsible way of the work we do. And if we do that – we might stop projecting our own fantasies onto the horses? What we create with our projections is a hindrance to seeing what they actually bring into the work. Which in my opinion is so much more worth than all the fairy tale stories, all the leadership projections, all the savior fantasies we ever can come up with…
Caption: Like the other unicorns, Uni had a special swirly horn with the power to heal and mend (Rosenthal, 2014 - Uni the Unicorn - a story about believing).
Added: I like anyone else, have contributed to the above spreading of fantasies and mis-information. I projected my picture of horses out into the world and did not see that part of what I was talking about only lived in my head, was my pictures of horses. Is the idea that we can totally rid ourselves of these pictures? No. What we can do - it becomes, and stay aware of them. So they do not get in the way of what a client or customers "need" to project onto the horses, to work with THEIR stuff. But also so they do not get in the way of providing horses with what THEY need, not only in EAP/L sessions but in their lives, to thrive, as HORSES.
Text and pictures are copyright protected © Katarina Lundgren 2019