Why is working with horses so effective for improving a girl’s behavior? It is because as the girls interact with horses, both the animal and girl must learn to trust each other. If her heart is right, she can experience a special connection, acceptance, and love from the horse that she has been unwilling to have with people. As she begins to trust another being, she also begins to trust those around her and sheds the negative attitudes and aggressions she would otherwise have with the staff here at LGA.
Horses are great at reading, reflecting and responding to human body language. It is difficult for the girl to work with a horse effectively if she is harboring anger and anxiety herself. These girls often do not understand that they have been sending out aggressive and negative signals to everyone around them, though they aren’t interested in being told that by an adult. She must shed those attitudes in order for the horse to trust her.
As a result, working with a horse is a great way for the girls to learn from and improve their own attitudes and communications. So much of human communication is nonverbal and horses are especially aware of and reactive to that. The horse will reflect their bad attitudes and mistrust right back to them by being aloof and uncooperative, so working with the horse helps them to become more aware of the signals they are sending.
Our equine staff matches each girl with a horse that fits her temperament, giving her a highly personal, therapeutic experience. As the girls continue to develop a special bond with a horse, they learn the value of patience, connection, and commitment. They gain a new self-awareness of how their thoughts, actions, and feelings affect the horse — as well as others around them. Processing this equine therapeutic experience helps the girls grow emotionally, building within them more positive relational skills.
For girls who have had trauma or abuse, working with a horse is a very powerful form of therapy. They learn self-confidence and renewed self-esteem by directing an animal that is several times their size. Control is a big issue here, and they learn that control of a horse is not done by force, but through mutual acceptance, care for the animal, and leadership.
For the girl to attempt to force an animal many times her size to do what she wants is foolhardy. Physical force and intimidation will only make working with a horse very difficult. Rather, as girls learn to relay calmness, authority, and affection to the horse, they get love, acceptance, and cooperation in return. They learn that they must present themselves with poise and confidence, which is noticed by the horse. Moving with a purpose that demands respect from their equine partner teaches the girl that leadership comes from within, not from physical force.
What the girls learn from our equine program is so important. As their hearts soften and walls come down with the horse in their care, they also have an easier time talking to and showing respect to our staff and therapists. What’s more, they begin to understand their own body language and to be more respectful and responsive to others. That correlates directly to the girl taking positive steps to repair her human relationships, actions, and communications.