Many people don’t realize that horses are so sensitive to their riders that the animals naturally synch their heartbeats to their humans. Yes, it is a scientific fact that the muscular, elegant steeds are so socially connected that they mirror human counterparts in a unique relationship. That makes the connection an ideal experiential therapy option.
Since 2018, Rosecrance’s Florian Program has offered weekly therapy sessions through BraveHearts, an equine therapy program with stables in Poplar Grove and Harvard, Illinois. Earlier this summer, BraveHearts staff brought some of their horses to the Rosecrance Harrison Campus to introduce residential clients to the unique experience.
“Because equine therapy isn’t all that common, it provides an avenue for clients to take a risk and fully immerse themselves relating to a horse,” said Recreation Therapy Coordinator Abby Nelson. “People connect on a different level and a lot of great work can happen in those little moments between horse and rider.”
Equine therapy has a strong track record helping people with past traumas and conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As human and horse work together, the human is able to work on critical recovery skills of self-efficacy, self-love, relationships, self-regulation, and ultimately confidence.
After hours in the stable, equine work can lead to breakthroughs like one Alumni Coordinator Jada Miller observed with a Florian alum who continued working with a favored horse after completing Rosecrance’s program. The client went from a person of low self-esteem to one who could trust humans like they learned to trust horses. They blossomed in the stables and eventually were among the top finishers in a competition at BraveHearts.
“It fills my heart to see people learn to trust another animal, to be open and vulnerable to it,” Miller said. “Those are the ‘aha’ moments we talk about in counseling that they just have to experience to fully understand the benefits of the therapy.”