I attended the PATH International Conference last October and one session that has stuck with me is the idea of the horse as an immediate feedback machine. I wrote about this briefly here in my post on “Why Horses?”
Horses instantly react to the environment around them. This means that they are constantly aware of their surroundings and always ready to react to external stimuli. This allows horses to be a mirror for clients. Clients who come in with baggage, like a bad day or a bad attitude, will likely struggle to connect with the horse that day. This allows the instructor to bring attention to the horse, instead of the client. In an ESMHL session, the equine specialist may ask the client to recognize how the horse is behaving. “Is the horse stressed out? How can you tell?” This gives the client a chance for self-reflection.
In a therapeutic riding session, instructors can immediately point out a horse’s reaction to a client. If a client starts to escalate in excitement or fear, the instructor can use the horse’s reaction to calm the client. “Johnny, do you see how your screaming is scaring Star?” or “Susie, we can’t yell around Smokey. Do you see how his head comes up and he moves away?”
The instant reaction of a horse helps us work on behavioral and emotional control for our clients. It takes attention off the client and creates a better learning environment. Few things react as quickly as a horse and the instanteous, noticeable reaction of a horse is an easy cue for clients to recognize.
I hope you find this helpful! I love diving in to these types of topics and could probably write way more on every single blog post, but I never want to bore you all with too many inane details. Leave a comment below if you want more information on anything I write about!