So what is horse therapy and how are horses 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 and emotions of the people around them.

If you have ever had the joyful opportunity to spend time with these gorgeous animals, you know the incredible energy and companionship they provide.

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

Horse Therapy

Ellen Kaye Gehrke & the Heart Math Institute Study

A woman named Ellen Gehrke has given us some unique insight into the horse/human connection. 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 an understand, most of us will never know.

That beings said, Gehrke wanted scientific proof that this link exists. This desire spurred Gehrke 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.

Your heart not only regulates your blood flow, but it also plays a key role in sending neurological information to the brain and balancing stress hormones. Incredibly 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, which like biofeedback, 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. Incredibly the horses picked up on her positive emotions and would show affection and stay with Gehrke for the Heart Lock In period.

Gehrke’s findings clearly show that human emotions affect the emotions of the horse. 

Horse Therapy and How It's 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 work on and 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 – that horses and humans share a are very special bond. I personally am looking forward to her next, more in depth battery of testing.

At Fraley & Associates we’ve developed a mental health program that uses the concepts of horse therapy to help our clients find mental clarity and peace.


Legend, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy 

Our particular program is called Legend Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (LEAP). Over the past 10 years I have 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 help 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. 

           Telephone: 509-710-8171

           Fax: 208-247-9247

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