Equine Therapy on 9/11, by Claire Dorotik

If one thing is obvious on the ten year anniversary of 9/11, it is that the world has changed. Air travel takes longer, increased security procedures seem to pervade aspects of our lives we never thought they would, and we are still at war. But perhaps the most insidious effect of 9/11 is a pervasive mistrust that seems to underlie almost everything we do. We simply don’t know what to expect anymore. It is not surprising then that the rates of a host of disorders, from PTSD to depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorders, is up. While the need to find ways to calm and center ourselves is now more present than ever, these ways are few and far between. And what makes the situation perhaps even more challenging is that for many people, what they now feel, just feels normal. Like a collective PTSD, societal hypervigilance begins to simply feel like the ways things should be. And for many of us, the opportunity to become aware of just how we are functioning is also fleeting. We simply don’t have the time, or the place. However, there are some places where we also don’t have the choice to not become fully present. Working with a horse is one of those places.

Because a horse speaks to a person on the level of which they are not aware — that is what physiological energy they carry unconsciously — and responds to this, a person is literally forced to respond to it as well. For example, a horse who meets a person who himself is very anxious, but also quite capable of defending himself, the horse will often attempt to engage the person’s own self-preservation mechanisms, which usually decreases the anxiety. To do this, the horse may actually push, nip, or bully the person on the ground, as if to say, stop focusing on your worries, and stand up for yourself.

In a situation such as this, the person will often ask for help from the horse expert, or the therapist guiding the group. But this is also telling as this is a person who regularly looks for help outside of himself, which is also part of the problem. And sure, a horse expert may be able to direct the person in ways to protect herself with the horse, but it will only be temporary. It is actually the energy the horse is after. For once the person’s energy changes, and he shifts from a position of victim, to a position of power, not only does what happens with the horse change, but what happens with the person changes as well.

When done correctly, equine therapy tends to have a lasting effect, for once a person becomes aware of his/her worries, fears, anger, resentment, etc., the feeling of being aware, being fully present physically, and psychologically is very powerful. Sort of like making a decision to finally move fully in one direction, or to no longer question oneself, becoming aware involves an absence of indecision about oneself. What this then allows is not only an incredible sense of calm, but an overwhelming sense of trust in oneself, and the world around us. And if 9/11 can remind us of anything it is that trust is something we need much more of.

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