This summer, the Grace House residents took a roadtrip to the Medicine Horse Ranch where they camped together and were introduced to equine therapy. It was a healing experience for them to interact with gentle giants and support each other in their own personal journey. Our team is committed to offering a variety of support services to our survivor sisters in order to equip them with well-rounded healing. We were honored to have the ranch share this experience with them.
Equine therapy, or the caring of, tending to, and interacting with horses for the purpose of personal healing, is known to be an extremely effective form of therapy for those suffering from many of the trauma symptoms that survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation endure during recovery. Since horses are animals of prey, they rely on their keen senses for their survival, reflecting the way survivors may have survived abuse and life-threatening situations. They are known to mirror human reactions, meeting positive emotions with their own positive reactions, and give the participants their own version of unsaid feedback.
Often in equine therapy, horses may not be ridden or tethered to a barrier and are allowed to roam freely within the arena. Because of the significant difference in size from humans to horses, participants must act calmly and use nonverbal communication to safely and effectively tend to the horse. Activities start very small and simply, with first learning only how to approach the horse, and can escalate into walking the horse, grooming the horse, or even riding the horse.
Equine therapy has been proven to improve confidence and the overall mental health of its participants. Even if a participant is initially fearful of horses, they are guided on how to safely interact with them until they are doing so all by themselves. Hopelessness that one can experience after trauma can turn into a certainty that they are, in fact, a very capable human being, simply by caring for the horse. The energy that used to be focused on ruminating depression or aggression towards the unfamiliar is instead focused toward caring, nurturing activities with their new animal friend.
We are so grateful that the women we serve were able to participate in this innovative and healing therapy for a whole weekend. We are passionate about many forms of healing, so we hope this unique step in their journey will have a lasting impact on their mental health and wellbeing.