There are many types of animal assisted therapy and equine-assisted therapies. Dogs and horses are commonly used for their unique and natural ability to mirror one's true soul. They are honest and will treat you as they see your emotions and body language. The time that is spent with the horses is engaging, and hands-on; participants do not feel like they are involved in a personal development session. The horses provide comfort, support and challenges clients to reflect upon their own attitudes and address the discrepancies.
Horses are large and intimidating creatures, which allows participants to overcome fears, and work to create trust and boundaries. The horses are highly emotionally intelligent and can read energy, and intent. They are highly congruent in their behavior, which gives the client immediate feedback about their own actions and body language. It's hard to ignore their size and presence. We can not just "control" a powerful horse. Approaching horses helps us reflect on how we approach our relationships, and how we can face things in our lives.
They are flight vs. fight animals! In laymen terms, a flight vs. fight reaction is an uncontrolled response to perceived fear where the body goes into self-protection mode automatically. It is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived (or actual) harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. Basically, horses wonder constantly if they are going to die! To evade predators, horses have evolved to be extremely sensitive to their environment. They instinctively analyze and react to our body language and other nonverbal cues providing us with valuable feedback and insights for other areas of our lives.
Horses are social animals with defined roles within a herd. Horses, like most humans, desire for companionship and live in herds or groups. There are unique dynamics within the herds similar to human families, or friendships, schools, and even work environments. There is a hierarchy with roles, expectations and consequences. They have distinct personalities, attitudes, behaviors, and thoughts, also similar to humans. Horses can be loving, mad, excited, scared, and hateful. In other words, horses are a lot like us except they are always non-judgemental. They respond to human behavior in the moment, honestly and without judgment.