An Incredible Healer...The Horse!

By: Sarah Fichtner, Case Manager at CFC Loud N Clear Foundation

I remember the first time I encountered a horse, I was in complete awe. Although I was only a young child, I knew there was something special about these enormous animals. They radiated strength, love and honesty. 20 years later and I continue to learn from horses every day. As a mental health professional, I find myself researching many treatment interventions. When traditional talk-therapy fails how can we connect with our clients? Are there other ways to understand our client’s deepest thoughts, feelings and struggles without the use of words? Well in fact, there is! And once again, I find myself in complete awe of the horse.  

Today, horses are being used to help treat addiction! Yes, you heard correctly, HORSES! So, you may be wondering, how? Why horses? How can they help people struggling with addiction? Let me shed some light on these powerful healers.

Firstly, horses are incredibly intuitive animals, they mirror human emotion. They are instant, in-the-moment feedback machines. For people struggling with addiction, they have a hard time facing their true feelings, so they turn to alcohol or drugs. When an addict is in the presence of a horse, they are forced to face those painful, often traumatic feelings. For example, if a person approaches a horse in a frustrated or angry state, the horse will immediately shy away. However, if a person approaches a horse in a calm and respectful manner, the horse is more likely to respond with kindness. Working with the horse forces addicts to self-reflect, gain self-awareness, and begin to acknowledge and let go of behaviors and beliefs that no longer serve them.  

Horses can also help addicts learn how to communication effectively and establish meaningful relationships. For people who abuse drugs or alcohol, their ability to engage in effective and healthy communication weakens. They also isolate themselves from others to feed their addiction, which only makes social interaction more difficult. Horses are great communicators, they will tell you exactly how they feel. Therefore, when a person begins to work with a horse they are forced to communicate and listen. By engaging in horsemanship such as haltering, walking and grooming, people struggling with addiction learn how to respect and set boundaries, acknowledge the horse’s needs, and begin to understand the importance of verbal and nonverbal language, honesty and respect for healthy relationships to endure.

Lastly, horses are 100% genuine and nonjudgmental animals. For people facing addiction, this is a very powerful component. When in the darkness of addiction, people often experience feelings of shame, judgment and guilt. Therefore, when they begin to work with horses and realize that they are being accepted for exactly who they are, it is life-changing! Horses require only one thing in order to form a relationship with humans; safety. The horse doesn’t CARE about a person’s mistakes, flaws or past history, if YOU are simply honest, kind and trustworthy the horse will be your most loyal friend.     

If allowed, horses can touch and heal the wounds of humanity and lead us on the greatest journey of all time!