Through the Nillumbik Homebiz network I have recently met a lovely lady, Dr Maggie Broom, who is provisional psychologist living on several acres – with several horses – in the bushy NE outskirts of Melbourne. Maggie is passionate about her horses and she’s also passionate about the way horses can help people grow and learn.
Here in Australia, Maggie’s business Grey Horse Growth And Learning, is a frontrunner in trialling Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), already well established in the US and Europe, particularly the UK and Germany.
“Just as art therapy involves creating art works and reading meaning into the experience, and dance therapy involves using the body to experience meaning, horse therapy involves undertaking a simple activity with a horse or horses and reflecting on the the experience and the thoughts and feelings that arise from it. You’ll be surprised at the things the horses can teach you about yourself!”
Maggie says horses can help you to:
- Manage emotional and psychological distress more effectively
- Learn how to change your patterns of behaviour
- Gain insight into how you respond in relationships
- Understand other people better
- Become aware of how your behaviour affects others
- Overcome fear
- Fine tune your body language
- Understand the connection between your emotions and your body language
- See yourself through the eyes of others
- Challenge your preconceptions
- Increase your ability to bounce back after setbacks (resilience)
- Have fun, feel good
Work with the horses can help in many areas:
LIFE CHANGES LETTING GO
SELF ESTEEM GRIEF AND LOSS
These five-week and a ten-week school programs offer experiential learning for young people, using horses as a focusing tool to help participants to gain insight into their patterns of behaviour and thoughts. The students work with up to three horses on an enclosed arena, undertaking activities that are designed to be both fun and challenging.
Activities may be as simple as ‘Go and stand by a horse’ or ‘Pick a horse and walk around it as many times as you would like to.’
Some activities can be complex and highly structured, with conditions and time limits. Activities are designed to be exploratory, offering participants the opportunity for ‘safe experiment’, without coaching or teaching.
However they choose to complete the activity is up to them – there is no right way or wrong way. Rules for undertaking the work on the arena are minimal, and relate mostly to safety of horses and people.
There are always two supervisors, a mental health practitioner and a horse specialist.
The horses act as a mirror to the emotional state and behaviour of the participants – if they are calm, the horses are calm; if agitated, the horse is too. The students are asked to pay close attention to the horses’ behaviour while undertaking activities.
After each activity, a short time is spent in debriefing. Participants are encouraged to comment on parts of the activity that stand out for them in some way. Questions are open and designed to clarify the experience, not to lead them to a specific solution.
The session leaders focus on the horses’ activity as a way of drawing the participants’ attention to their own activities in response to the horses. In effect, the session turns the usual teaching situation on its head – the participants are not coached in how to get the horses to do something, rather, the horses’ responses to the participants teach the participants something about themselves.
For many years now Animal-Assisted Learning and Animal-Assisted Therapy has been known have a beneficial effect on people – Riding for the Disabled, Guide Dogs for the Blind, fish tanks in waiting rooms and hospitals, cats in hospices and dogs as hospital visitors.
A US-based professional body, EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association), trains and accredits practitioners world-wide and is recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States. EAGALA practitioners complete training in two parts. Maggie has completed Part One and will soon complete Part Two.
You can get in touch with Maggie by:
Phone: 03 9710 1374
Mobile: 0418 521 048
I’ve been to visit Maggie and her horses at Smith’s Gully and find the whole experience intriguing…can’t see why EAP shouldn’t be a valuable therapy here as well as overseas.