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Horse Therapy: The Wisdom of Horses & How They Make Us Better People!

horse therapy

So what is horse therapy and how can it be used used to help humans emotionally? 

Sir Winston Churchill, or some other illustrious figure depending which source you rely on,  said: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.

…or woman of course! 

Horses are incredibly special animals. Intuitive and able to read the feelings of the people around them.

If you’ve ever had the joyful opportunity to spend time with these gorgeous creatures, you know what I am talking about. 

Moreover, horses are especially sensitive to their environment.  This is because out in the wild, they are susceptible to predators. As a result, they had to hone a unique energetic connection to their surroundings to survive in nature. 

Let’s dig a little deeper to see just how deep these roots go…

Ellen Kaye Gehrke & the Heart Math Institute Study

A woman named Ellen Gehrke has given us some unique insight into the horse/human connection. Much like Legend, she uses horse therapy for handicapped riders and those suffering from mental health issues.

Training wild mustangs to become calm trail horses enabled her to probe the strong connection between horses and humans. Her experiences gave her insight, that most of us do not have into inner workings of these complex animals.

That being said, Gehrke wanted scientific proof that this link exists. This desire spurred her to start a research project with the Heart Math Institute. The study concentrated on Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and the way horses and humans interrelate under different emotional circumstances.

Did you know your heart not only regulates your blood flow, but it also plays a key role in sending neurological information to the brain? Incredibly, it also balances stress hormones. That electromagnetic energy, which can be measured by an EKG, sets the scene for what is going inside your body both physically and emotionally.

Heart Rate Horse Therapy

Your Heart Rate and Emotions

“HRV dynamics are particularly sensitive to changes in emotional states, and positive and negative emotions can readily be distinguished by changes in heart rhythm patterns, which are independent of heart rate. During the experience of negative emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness or depression, heart rhythms become more erratic or disordered (or incoherent). Conversely, sustained positive emotions such as appreciation, love, or compassion are associated with a highly ordered, or coherent, pattern in the heart rhythms, and can be regarded as an indication of physical and mental health states”. 


Both Gehrke and the horses wore heart monitors 24/7 during the trial period.  In order to connect with the horses, she used a technique called Heart Lock In.  This practice is a lot like biofeedback and enables practitioners to focus on a positive mental state for prolonged periods of time.

As Gehrke entered a space of love and gratitude the heart monitors picked up on the activity. The most exciting part of this exercise was the horses picked up on her positive emotions too! They showed affection and stayed with Gehrke for the Heart Lock In period.

Gehrke’s findings clearly show that human emotions affect horses. 

This is Something We See Everyday at the Legend Ranch!

As you can imagine this is no shock to us! 

At the Legend Ranch, we experience these incredible results on a daily basis. Horse therapy may not be a new concept, but I will let you in on a little secret. It’s fairly unexplored when it comes to scientific studies. 

That’s why we are taking the bull by the horns at the Legend Development Center. We are embarking on further clinical trials to illustrate just how important horse therapy is to the mental health profession. 

My goal is to make sure therapists learn more about this amazing tool! Horse therapy is implemented at Fraley & Associates when traditional talk therapy isn’t enough. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone in the mental health community had access to those resources too? 

As a result of this connection with horses, we consistently break down walls that no one thought could be penetrated.

Lynn Fraley Horse Therapy at Legend Ranch

So How Is Horse Therapy Used? 


Horse therapy is increasingly being used in the mental health field, because of the ability of horses to mirror the emotional responses of the people in their immediate surroundings.

You may not realize you are tense, but a horse will surely pick up on your state of mind. It’s a way to get patients to address their emotions with a living, breathing creature. In many ways, it’s far more impactful than a traditional session.

Gerhke’s studies just prove scientifically what all horse therapy practitioners already know.  Horses and humans share a very special bond. I’m looking forward to the results of our in-depth battery of testing that will reveal more about this relationship.

At Fraley & Associates, our mental health programs use the concepts to help our clients find mental clarity and peace. It truly is a gift. 

Horse Therapy Ring

Legend, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

Our horse therapy program is called Legend Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (LEAP). Over the past 10 years, I’ve found that human interaction with horses reveals more about a person than hours of talk therapy.

My patients create strong relationships with the horses they work with. This, in turn, helps them focus on remaining in a positive state that fortifies the connections they have in the “real world”. This work often enables clients to re-establish frayed or lost relationships with people in their social network. 

The results are truly amazing. Give me a call if you are looking to find out more information about horse therapy. I am happy to point you in the right direction. 

Dr. Lynn Fraley Founder Fraley & Associates (1)

Telephone: 509-710-8171

Fax: 208-247-9247 

Email: lynn@fraleyandassociates.com

Fraley & Associates Counseling

Spokane, Washington Address
703 W. 7th Ave, Suite 300
Spokane, WA 99204


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