Being an Equine Specialist for the Papillion Center for FASD has changed my life in the best way. I got certified through EAGALA in 2010. However, it wasn’t until 2011 that we got a horse. In one trip we actually ended up with two horses. A Thoroughbred retired race horse that had been abused, neglected and abused again. And then there was a family Quarter-horse who was Alfa on his land. So we took the lowest of the low and the highest of the high of these horses and put them together. What an event that turned out to be! They had to learn to count on each other.
Clients came and connected to these horses instantly. They would see the scars from the abuse on the Thoroughbred, and they would connect. We use horses not only because they connect with us, but because they mirror human emotions. It’s much easier for a client to see these emotions within the horse instead of themselves, even though the horse is just picking up on what they are feeling! With the Equine Therapy program we have made movement in three sessions that we might get in 6-9 months of regular talk therapy. We relate, connect, reflect to how this plays out in their life. We can watch a horse “box” someone in and ask them if they feel trapped in their life? They build obstacles and name them things like “bullying” “communication” or “loss.”
Then they try and go over the obstacles with the horse, but here’s the thing. If they aren’t ready, that horse doesn’t budge! I’ve seen it a hundred times. The horse just knows that they aren’t ready. What that does though, is give us the smallest opening to get them talking. And then movement happens and that’s where healing begins. It’s not long after that they are able to get over those obstacles!
We work with kids, but also their parents. We get everyone involved so we can set them up to succeed. When these children and parents come to us, they are hurting and sometimes hopeless, the first thing we do is give them ownership of the horse. The horse is theirs! They name it, brush it, and feed it! We are down to one horse now after loosing the Thoroughbred to cancer. The horse that remains had more names than I can count! I have to check each file before the client comes so that I don’t get the names mixed up.
The Papillion Center is happy to help these children grow! Our mission is to be an advocate for any child who needs it. We specialize in FAS and FASD, but all are welcome and many come from hard places. Working for the Papillion Center for FASD I have learned that many of these children have come from the hardest places. Places beyond our imagination. Some are so wounded by humans that it takes an animal, such as a horse, to teach them to reconnect.