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The Healing Touch
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The Healing Touch

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.

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. jst4horses
    We have done this kind of therapy since 1988 when we began to realize that the three to six human handlers and physical therapists and mental health professionals for ONE child who would never leave an institution were amazing and wonderful (my book Carousel Horse is on Amazon-I copyrighted it for the movie to be made, it is a children's story and a full length script, in which there are errors, since the producer said, don't worry, just get it copyrighted so we can work with it tells a lot of our stories) but we decided there were many adults, as well as children who just needed a kick start, and moved to a new area of animal assisted therapies. One family I worked with had had a lot of death and prison in the family, and six kids. The kids were always in trouble in school, the Mom needed help. She had been a pony ride assistant to her father when she was young, and we worked with horses with her children. It was amazing. I am writing a follow up book, to raise money for the horse sanctuary (Blue Pearl Project-Oak Meadow Ranch in Southern California) where we have our therapy horses. The stories are so miraculous. One young woman had moved far away, her Father got AIDS and they went homeless, she wandered up to my door one day, and said, I knew you and the horses would be here. These people had at one time been close friends, but due to jobs, etc had moved away. They lived with us for over a year until they were accepted into AIDs hospice housing. She has decided to live with her Father and take care of him the rest of his life. He actually is stable on his medications and back to work part time. We also learned horse Reiki and one of our volunteers was a Reiki specialist for humans. We have had many healings of horse and human. I do not sell horses, once they are in our program they stay. We have high powered executives who just come out and stand in the sun, letting a horse graze, and feed them carrots. They have no interest in learning to ride, one lady said "do you think I am crazy, I am not going to tear around on horseback' Until she moved, she came and loved her stress free time with the older horses. The last six months of his life, a young cancer patient came and from his wheelchair groomed horses that were older or disabled. He would have such joy on his face. There are many women who wanted a horse, we have found that they love sponsoring an older or disabled horse and taking care of the horse for the programs. Many of them have gone on and taken our program and become volunteers. We can heal, and be healed by horses. My older son had cancer, caused by the chemicals in his print shop at school, there was no hope. Only two doctors in the whole world were working on that type of cancer. He was sixteen. Now he is 45 and healthy and happy. He is helping a vet tech who owns a sanctuary for dogs and horses who no one wanted to pay the vet bills for. When they are healed, they get forever homes. He is a grip and works on shoots, so has time between them to help. His treatment was from horse antibodies that killed the cancer cells. We wanted to make sure the horses were well treated, they are all privately owned, and only can be utilized for a very specified number of treatments or blood donations. The owners can visit any time, day or night, and take them back anytime. We owe my son's life to horses. Truly. I know my horses saved me from cancer........I would leave the hospital and go and get back into the routine. I was one day at a time nuzzled and muzzled and whinnied into health. My personal horses are all gone, most lived long long lives, my vet said when the animal control demanded I put down a forty year old previous race horse, who had been at stud for eleven years and got tumors so was sold off and down, that I had rescued from the slaughter auction after two owners could not get him to perform as they wanted him to, and animal control said he would be dead if in the wild, so I should put him down.........he is frail, but look at him, he is happy, he is loved, and he loves.....and would NOT put him down. She threatened to put me in jail, and put him down anyway, long story, but he healed so many, and as the vet said, he was loved, and loved...........it is worth the chance. Just share your horse with a friend. One of our Foundation horses is being shared with a young girl who cannot afford a horse, they are winning competitions, and she is healing my heart for my Mom stopping me from riding as a teen. I went out and cleaned stables, and helped train and kept on riding anyway, and realize that she was concerned for my safety when she realized I could get hurt, and stopped paying for my performance classes. God bless horses, they do heal.
  2. jst4horses
    We have just partnered up with Oak Meadow Ranch, a horse sanctuary for the past year we have boarded our horses there, and lent them to other programs. New projects, and new veterans programs and volunteers have grown from that start. The owners of the sanctuary have gotten certified for Spirit Horse II. YAY.

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