Equine Therapy: Travels in the Equine World, by Claire Dorotik

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The client shifts around nervously in her chair, her darting eyes revealing a weak defense system. As she searches for a disguised response to an honest question, I wonder to myself, ‘Why must this be so difficult?’ The truth is, she is only doing what she knows — hiding. The problem, however, is that she is also uniquely attached to her only familiarity, and it — her unconscious desire to remain a victim, perpetrated upon by a long line of offenders — is killing her. And again, I wonder to myself, ‘I wish there were a way for me to show her this’. It is at this time that I wish for a horse.

Horses, unlike people, don’t disguise much, if anything. So a person’s unconscious wish to remain a victim doesn’t go unnoticed. Neither does the anger behind it. Because at some point in this person’s history, she was truly a victim, and what should have happened simply didn’t. So now she must replay this history with new relationships — and sometimes old ones — hoping to finally be cared for. However, unfortunately, the kindness that is now proffered to her doesn’t make up for what was missed, and naturally, she is angry about this. But this is a hopeless cycle, because her anger now pushes away the kindness that she needs so much.

And instead of a long, drawn out exploration of this with the client, a horse would simply draw out the person’s rage. In a very basic way, he would provoke the person, by invading her space, being pushy and nudging her until she moves. Space, to a horse, means everything, and can be understood to represent power in relationships — both horse and human. A horse that can move another horse around is the one in power, both in times of fear — like when escaping a predator — and in times of need — such as protecting a foal, or feeding. So with a person attached to her anger, and yet disguising it at the same time — as in the case of someone stuck in the victim role — a horse will take the power from this person, until the anger begins to surface. Because the unconscious truth is that the person does feel disempowered, and her anger becomes a substitute for the self confidence that comers from real power.

What of course becomes clear then is the bind the person is in, here, a horse, whom she hopes will love and nurture her, is doing the exact opposite. And why, she asks? Well the want to be nurtured is one thing, but horses don’t respond to wants. Instead, our equine friends respond only to needs. Effectively what the horse is then saying to the client is “More than needing to be nurtured, you need to take back your power”. And, of course, when the person reclaims the space from the horse, he no longer pushes her. It is at this time that he may actually offer some honest love — not the kind that begs, “Take care of me.”

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