Women and Horses: Using Equine Assisted Therapy to Facilitate Mindful Behaviors
The women and horses program is an experience unlike any other. The program pairs women with therapy horses and invites them to explore areas of mindfulness, self-reflection, and personal growth within a 6 week long period.
In the spring of 2016, we began our women and horses session with four women. They were all asked if they would like to volunteer to participate in a questionnaire study that would monitor how mindful and how present they were being on a weekly basis throughout the 6 week program. The women were sent short questionnaires twice a week that asked questions like, “How often [within the past week] have you paid attention to sensations, such as the wind in your hair or the sun on your face?” and “How often [within the past week] have you felt loved and wanted?”.
Over the course of 6 weeks, we found that overall, the women reported to have felt less strung-up, less unhappy or depressed, and that they felt more comfortable expressing their emotions. The women also reported, overall, to have paid more attention to individual moments throughout their days, and to have paid more attention to sensations, to the people around them, and to how their daily lives were affecting those around them. All four women reported that they had enjoyed the program and that it allowed them to become more accepting, more trusting, and less judgmental of themselves or of others.
Although this very preliminary look at the women and horses program only featured four subjects, the data reflects themes that have been seen in almost all women who have previously participated in this program. They include awareness of sensations, acceptance, trust, awareness of their inpact on others, better indicators of their emotions, and non-judgement and non-reactivity to inner experiences.