Learn more about Sarah Jenkins and EquiLateral: The Equine-Assisted EMDR Protocol™
Feeling that our internal state, our emotions, were “held” by others, and processed, was a foundational need in childhood. To process it, as children, we needed the presence of an attuning other in the outside world, our caregiver to “hold” that distress to help us regulate, settle, calm, and let it move through.
When we grow up, our brain has a greater capacity to hold our emotional distress, a larger capacity for processing, and a deeper neuro-network of resources. Essentially, instead of an “espresso” size cup, our brain capacity is of a larger cup that is sturdier, can hold more, and can contain it all. And, while the emotions from our childhoods may seem bigger than we are, and the cup may seem unable to hold it, we can.
If we equestrians and equine-facilitated/assisted practitioners don’t get to this deep layer of material, it will show up in our work with clients and let alone in our horsemanship. It will show up as the “oh oh” moments where we brace against, perhaps seeing our horses’ ear flick back, perhaps a misstep or stumble, move quickly, or even how we see and react in moments in the arena when we are co-facilitating therapy sessions with horses.
We all might have learned what was, or wasn’t, “okay” to be who we are. We may not know that our internal experience of who or what we “are” and our willingness to express it to the outside world “externally” is actually held in the balance by our own tolerance for it internally.
I would bet money that you might know dissociation, and it likely already knows you. The belief that we don’t experience dissociation, nor see it in our clients, well, that’s non-realization; it can be the very dissociative process doing its job. But, in fact, we do know dissociation. It just presents in a variety of different ways.
The rain is coming and I’m already in the process of tacking my mare up for a very, very brief experience of helping her to do some stretches and subtle flexion while online and in transitions. It’s not a “training” goal for me, but rather a feeling that I am hoping to give her, of being able to experience relaxation from the trot the walk, walk to canter.
To me, because our field is primarily a model-driven one, and with few exceptions, not one driven by the specific goals of a psychotherapeutic modality, as providers, we must first get clarity on our theory of change. Then, we can gain greater clarity on how to interpret and utilize the exquisite, powerful, and inspiring equine-based interactions that we see every day.
As clinicians and equine specialists, while we partner with horses in providing therapeutic services, we also take into consideration that, contrary to popular opinion, EAP/EFP is not a therapeutic modality, in and of itself. We, perhaps, may think that it is, but in contrast, it is a process that enables one’s chosen therapeutic modality to move within.
Let’s face it, whether or not we identify ourselves as a trauma survivor, our personal perspectives and histories of trauma come into play, regardless of whether we think we are “working on trauma” with our client(s), and regardless of whether it occurs in or out of the arena. Trauma’s influence is present, even if we are not present to it.
We all have unique and extremely valuable perspectives on the “how and why” equine interactions can be so healing. Whether it is “metaphor,” “relationship,” or “neurological,” you name it. The one thing we could agree on is that we all know, in our bones, the power of the horse.