Sanctuary Stables offers EAP and EAL programs that are experiential forms of psychotherapy and learning in a safe and fun environment. The equine is a critically important partner in the work of both EAP and EAL.
The concept that horses might be helpful or healing to people struggling with mental health issues is based on the idea that horses (as domestic prey animals) are extremely sensitive to changes in the human being (as a predatory creature). Due to their sensitivity, horses react and respond to people differently based on a person's emotional state. The horse acts as a large biofeedback machine, providing the client and therapist with information regarding the client's moods, and changes within those moods. If a client arrives anxious, the horse will act and respond one way. If the client is able to reduce his or her anxiety, the horse's behaviors will also change. This provides a plethora of information and skill building opportunities for both the client and the therapist.
In an educational setting, horses and the lifestyle that goes along with maintaining horses, provide opportunities to teach critical life and communication skills. Horses mostly use non-vocal communication, and thus are wonderful teachers to help us better understand and learn how our non-verbal communication might be impacting or influencing others in our lives. Horses also demand that we are aware of our surroundings at all times. In order to stay safe around horses we must be observant and present in our bodies. We have to listen to each other and the horses. We have to stay focused and attentive. To care for horses takes dedication, time, and effort and our clients can learn a strong work ethic that may transition back into their daily lives. Furthermore, clients gain self-esteem and self-confidence while learning how to work with such a large and powerful creature. In all, horses provide us with a way to see our internal landscape and modes of operation exposed. They offer us humility, compassion and challenge—all critical elements to supporting self-growth and self-awareness.