The Horse-Human Paradigm

There is a popular quote among horsepeople, "There's something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." When it comes to the horse, both the inside and the outside are good for us!

The horse is the only creature on the planet that has the same gait as a human, he moves forward and back, side to side, and up and down. When a person sits astride, and the horse walks, the person is also walking. It's not something you see unless you are looking for it, but the rider and the horse move in a synchronized manner. This movement is what makes the horse such an important partner in medical treatment such as Hippotherapy. This movement also contributes to the release of oxytocin in the body...the "feel good" hormone, which makes riding an excellent therapy or wellness activity for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Add in the physical activity of riding and caring for horses, and it's easy to see how the outside of the horse really is good for the inside and outside of man.

But what about his insides? And how can the horse help our insides?

The horse is a simple, yet incredibly complex creature. He has two abilities that are essential to his survival. One is awareness and the ability to see and feel everything around him. The other is flight and the escape from real and perceived threats. These primal behaviors keep him alive, and help him live a life of freedom in the wild. As a species living in a high tech, busy busy world, we have lost these abilities to our domesticated humanity. We don't rely on our senses for self preservation anymore, and our ability to run from danger and the things that threaten our survival has become clouded by fear of judgement, the expectations of others, our diminished sense of self and fear of failure and rejection.

When we partner a horse with a person in the process of creating their holistic wellness plan they are challenged to see how their behaviors affect not only their own lives, but the lives of those they love and care about. Our own fears, anger, resentment, disappointment, and sometimes our excitement and zealous pursuit of a new start can be stumbling blocks on our path. We can become so disconnected to our behaviors that we don't realize we are setting ourselves up for self sabotage. But the horse has to be able to sense it, even after a lifetime of being kept as a pet and companion, his survival from threats and predators depends on his ability to sense even the slightest chance that your behavior could harm him.

Horses show us who we are, what we do, and what we need to change. They give us the opportunity to challenge ourselves with metaphorical and conceptual experiences that help us learn and grow. We can *see* what our behaviors look like to others through the horses reactions to our attempts at communication. We are then freed from the barriers that allow us to become more in touch with our own feelings and the way we communicate them, and can learn to take better control of our lives as we move toward a peaceful fresh start.

We are grateful to bring our work to the community. Heartwork with Horses in on a mission to save lives by creating and delivering wellness programs that partner people with horses to learn healthy life choices, promote the prevention of disease, and improve both quality of life and community health.