What Happens in Beachwood’s Equine Therapy?

The Horses - Horses are prey animals that live together in a herd.  

For thousands of years their survival has depended on their vigilant attention to anything in their vicinity that could be a predator, together with their ability to hold connection and communicate effectively to escape together.  Unlike a dog you have to work to gain its trust. Many horse trainers believe that some horses can read peoples emotions better than people can.

At Beachwood, clients do not ride horses or take care of them although you can learn to saddle and brush if you would like.  The horses have been specially selected from European horses bred over centuries for the strength, intelligence, and sensitivity required for the intricate work of dressage.

A number of studies have shown that these horses can create the attachment that allows for the reorientation of our emotional compass, often far faster and more successfully than the older traditional therapeutic approaches.

The Client - When trauma has happened, and every time anything perceived to be like it happens again, the fight or flight response is triggered. This repeated response builds a deep synapse to the sympathetic nervous system. The traumatized person becomes hyper-vigilant to anything that seems like the original trauma because the amygdala - where the flight fight response originates - can't distinguish between a real threat and a perceived threat. The perceived threat can be so intense it triggers a "freeze" response which makes it difficult to think clearly, to speak, or stand up and fight back. Classic examples are seen in children and women who are victims of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. 

The horse/therapist combination helps a client to achieve a state of calmness and emotional relaxation from which they can reduce their automatic response and shift their perspective from what they perceived from the past, to what is happening in the present. Technically, they are building new neural pathways and strengthening existing synapses in the parasympathetic nervous system.

Results - Brown University has established an ongoing study to evaluate the results of our evidence-based work.  “Early examination of the data shows consistent decreases in depression, anxiety and stress scores. Patients are also reporting improvements in their subjective sense of well-being…”

We are quite excited about the case studies we have collected over the last year with a number of rather dramatic successes.  As all client information is highly confidential we can only outline a few examples.

Typically, a Beachwood client requires 7 sessions (1 ½ hours each), to resolve their trauma or establish new responses.