If every mental activity takes place within the central nervous system, or more specifically, within the brain, then whatever is mental is physical as well. Healing is required in order for the patient to recover from illness, be it “physical” or so called “mental”. There could be hundreds of methodologies for healing, each suitable for the treatment of a particular disorder of the patient.
It may sound weird to most people, but interesting is the fact that horses (besides some other animals) can play important role in healing humans. They participate in therapy administered in natural settings to heal certain types of human conditions. Horses are employed in such operation under a program called Animals as Natural Therapy (ANT) that has been around for over 22 years at Windy Acres, a former dairy farm, located in Bellingham, Washington.
Among the people that visit Windy Acres, many do not even come for healing; they think they come here to learn about horses or about some other animals. However, at the end of the day they learn something about themselves. This is often the outcome of a visit to this place and horses play a central role in this process of healing. It is amazing to see a horse that cannot speak, responding to a (human) companion’s activity or gesture consequently healing certain condition(s) of the person. Even though the interaction is not “entirely” private, as it is supervised by a counselor, nevertheless, a comfortable space of “privacy” is given between the horse and its subject.
Such an approach is effective for the patient to “open up” to the healer (the horse) as the “human ego” seldom allows people to let other people be aware of their weakness. Most of these patients visiting Windy Acres have emotional issues like anger, frustration, depression, feeling disconnected, lack of confidence etc.
They suffer deep inside themselves and almost none of them are comfortable about discussing their conditions with another person, not at least in public. As Lorna Shepardson, the resident Equine Assisted Mental Health Counselor at Windy Acres, observes that horses have “finely tuned” intuition that is capable of taking a grasp of a person’s emotional behavior and then reflecting it back to the person just like a mirror does it with his/her image. She also asserts, and rightly so, that our society has conditioned us for so long as to not let our emotions out so that other people are not offended or at least, not disturbed. Hence, many people are not even aware of their emotions because of continuous suppression of it in front of other people.
The horses at Windy Acres start the ball rolling in the healing process as they make patients aware of their particular emotions. Moreover, when a person sees a 1200 lb. horse is following his/her footstep, it raises the confidence level in him/her; all of a sudden, taking charge like a leader does not seem like a challenge any more. When the problem is identified and the confidence is built, how much more is left to be done for the patient to cure from mental illness? A horse as a healer is perfectly capable of identifying the problem through making the patient aware of the emotions and of building confidence by being a “partner” in the process.
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