Intro: There is something inherently noble and graceful about horses and I have always been fascinated with them but never got a chance to interact with them. When I got the opportunity to visit EAPD Dubai to know more about Horse Assisted Therapy, I took this opportunity to get a feel of equine therapy and what it was all about.
I am generally scared of the four-legged species; probably comes from my overprotective upbringing that always encouraged me to be ‘safe’! I also consider myself an anxious person who is never totally relaxed. I try a bit to change, but overall, I just accept these traits as a part of my nature, despite being told many a times that I should not worry too much and should learn to relax. So there I was eager, excited and nervous all at the same time in anticipation of my first experience with these graceful four legged creatures!
I was given a warm welcome by Caroline Joyce Seemar, Manager of the Equestrian Association for People of Determination (EAPD)and Monica Kubik, Licensed Horse Dream Partner and Expert in Horse Guided Empowerment. After chatting for a while, I was taken to see the horses and Monica asked me if I wanted to interact with them. Hesitant at first, I was impressed with the magnificent creatures and decided to give it a go. I went near one and started patting it, it turned towards me and then looked away, ignoring me, and going about its business as if he was trying to tell me to leave me alone. Monica asked me if that attitude reminded me of someone in my life. Yes, it did! I am an overprotective mom and my boys always get exasperated with me and that is exactly their attitude! Monica smilingly explained that when we give metaphors to these horses, we learn to manage our relationships while trying to manage the horses by making those necessary behavioral changes to deal with them that eventually help us in our relationships! We try to deal with the horse in a manner that gets us his/her approval and acceptance, or we be assertive with the horse when necessary and that is exactly how it helps us in our life too! I was fascinated!
Next on, I was introduced to a cute little pony and was asked to lead her back to the stables. I decided to give it a go. After talking to it and petting it for a bit I led it out of the field towards the stable and to my surprise she gently trotted with me! It was only after her companions took a particular route and I started taking her from another one, she stubbornly stood still and refused to budge! I looked at Monica helplessly and she told me you are the one leading her, and you have to show her who is the boss! I spoke to her gently but firmly and gave the rope a firm tug and she followed placing her full faith in me!
This is exactly what Monica explained earlier. She said that a horse has the ability to pick up on a person’s subconscious patterns and physical reactions and reacts accordingly with the person. The horse reveals our behaviour patterns that we are unable to spot. Horses are less intimidating than humans, and are able to mirror and reveal emotions while acting without judgment. “If you’re high-energy, the horse will be high-energy. If you’re timid, the horse will be timid,” says Monica.
When someone is introduced to the horses, they tend to feed off the physical and emotional responses that dominate the person’s behaviour and respond accordingly, giving clues that trained therapists are able to pick up on to know more about their client’s mindset and behavioural patterns.
As a client is interacting with a horse, the therapist asks a series of questions and observes. “The idea is that the way we do anything is the way we do everything. So, the way you approach something with the horse for the first time, is how you’d approach other things for the first time in other areas,” she says and added that in my behaviour with the horses there was no anxiety or fear of any kind, I was totally comfortable so maybe I had been trained since childhood to think that I should be scared but actually I was not scared at all!
In a unique new method of human development coaching, Monica Kubik, offers private and corporate sessions in Horse guided Empowerment. By observing the reactions of the horses around her clients and vice versa, she can help them uncover what is hidden “behind the mask” which we often put up in social settings. A deep and profound experience, these trainings offer insights into self-awareness, collaboration and leadership in a way no other learning experience can. “Having been around horses for over 30 years, I have constantly experienced how much horses can help us tap into the deep recesses of our minds and emotions so that every interaction within ourselves and the outside world becomes a conscious one”, says Monica.
Within split seconds of a human approaching her, the horse evaluates our intentions, wondering if she needs to escape from this predator. She notices the speed at which we approach, our posture and the depth of our breath. She observes how a group of people interact with each other and senses their emotions – most clients are equally a little bit nervous as it is their first time approaching a free roaming herd of horses – no prior horse experience is needed to participate in the sessions.
What the horse is not bothered about are the masks on the people’s faces nor the words they use – she relies purely on all the subtle signs which humans often send out unconsciously. This is the gist of this unique method of self-development where during each session clients learn to further shed their masks, embrace their authenticity, lead with integrity while allowing themselves and others the freedom to truly express themselves in their own way. The horses give honest feedback. They don’t tell us what we want to hear; they reflect what they’re seeing. Monica said that different people reacted in different ways around horses, some were scared, some were aggressive, some just stood not knowing what to do and some were friendly; the horse senses all of that and reacts accordingly.
For clients presenting PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], anxiety or depression, or mental or physical disabilities, they might feel sensitive or triggered around other individuals,” says Monica. “With horses, the client will feel calmer, more open and more comfortable to let their guard down, but it should be done by licensed therapists who know how to use equine therapy.”
Caroline said that this form of therapy is also increasingly being used to help people of determination. In 1998 EAPD patron HH Sheikha Hassa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum donated three horses to be used for therapeutic riding. Under the directorship of Satish Seemar and Ali Albwardy (CEO), the EAPD was born. They have been assisting children with a variety of physical and developmental issues, including autism, Cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and Spina bifida. EAPD uses horse riding combined with therapeutic riding to achieve a variety of goals to help children develop their physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities allowing them to focus on their abilities and not the disabilities.
Therapeutic riding is a holistic therapy delivering physical, mental, and emotional benefits to the rider. Historically it has been proved to be beneficial and was used in ancient Greece to improve the health of differently abled people. The ability to control or deal with a horse as well as one’s own body inspires a sense of responsibility and instills self-confidence. Riders learn to balance coordinate and be self-assured when with the horse and receive therapeutic muscle stimulation alongside. The aim here is to improve posture, poise, strength, and flexibility. Riding is also an enjoyable activity in the outdoors and fresh air and not confined to physiotherapy rooms making it an enjoyable and engaging activity. Psychological benefits like improved social and emotional intelligence, communication skills, development of patience, emotional control and discipline are added benefits. “The students put their attention on one thing, and it builds their confidence, helps with their neuro-skills,” says Caroline. “The horse isn’t there telling them what to do or not to do. It’s just there. They can explore that and really connect.”
Horse Guided Empowerment is a unique method developed through the life-long practice of bodily presence, spiritual curiosity, and an association with horses. Talking and thinking our way through life challenges does not work. This kind of therapy verifies our true nature and innate wisdom through experiential interaction with horses, offering an embodied approach to changing our actions and reactions, supporting fresh thinking and connection in the world and is especially useful for corporate training.
Equine Assisted Therapy can be a powerful and wonderful way to assist our children and adolescents in multiple social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioral domains. It is being recognized as a more integral part of psychotherapy and mental health and can serve as a unique and effective mediation that should be considered as a resource by parents and professionals.
By: Viki Shah
EAPD Dubai resumes classes for Children from Thursday 21st January 2021.
Visit www.eapd-dubai.ae to know more and register.
Contact Caroline at: email@example.com
Contact Monica at: firstname.lastname@example.org