Equine therapy helped heal the wounds that crippled Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was kidnapped at the age of 11, sexually assaulted, and confined for 18 years until she and her daughters were rescued from their nightmare captivity. She credits the healing power of horses for helping her recover from the trauma.
According to Parade magazine, Dugard went on to form the JAYC Foundation to help other families survive crises using both traditional therapy and equine-facilitated therapy, or EFT.
At the Beachwood Center for Wellbeing, which has locations in Rhode Island and Palm Beach, Florida, Rev. Lynne Bryan Phipps tells Newsmax that their Integrative Equine Therapy program has been successful in treating cases of serious stress, trauma, and anxiety, efficiently and effectively.
She cites case studies of veterans suffering from debilitating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mothers of very ill children who were unable to sleep, and young people with panic attacks — hundreds of clients who tried regular therapy only to get dramatic results in a few sessions with her specially trained horse "therapists."
"Horses, like people, are designed to live together in community," she says. "As prey animals, their lives depend upon their ability to 'feel' fear almost instantly, so they can run to safety. The physiological mechanisms that create this effect are called mirror neurons, and they show up as what we call the empathy response."
Phipps says it is this "sixth sense" that horses have that helps them see through the human facade and identify the underlying cause of psychological fear and trauma.
"Horses are objective readers of people," she says. "Their response is subtle. They move closer or farther away, creating a safe space for themselves as the client feels and reacts to their own internal issues. With a horse, one is never judged, shamed, or embarrassed."
There is no riding at Beachwood, but the clients and horses interact in a way that helps achieve a state of calm and relaxation.
According to Parade, equine therapy is a fast-growing therapeutic mental health treatment that's being used nationwide to help treat addiction to trauma. Research has shown that horses are acutely in tune with human emotions, and stories abound about the "miracles" that happen when "horse sense" is applied to emotional healing.
"Horses live in the moment," Phipps says. "They are truthful and honest of their experience. Sometimes for us, the moment is filled with past experiences as well as anticipation of the future. As we shift our perspective with the horses' help, and learn to trust that this moment is not the same as the last one, the horses will mirror that change. The experience is uncanny — almost magical."
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