Greetings and Orientation
Upon our clients’ arrival, we take a brief moment to allow them to warm up to the horses, and for the horses to do the same with them. Just like how we greet one another by saying “hello, how are you?”, this pocket of time is valuable as it allows both our clients and horses to welcome each other’s company, easing both parties into the session proper.
Grooming and Tacking Up
A big part of EAT involves learning how to take responsibility and take good care of our co-therapists, and the grooming segment of the session is pivotal to that. Our clients also learn how to tack the horses up in preparation for a ride. By learning how to groom and tack the horses up, we not only get to improve on both our gross and fine motor skills, but also learn to take ownership of the process.
Once the horses are equipped and clients are prepared, we are ready to go for a ride! Mounted activities include riding around the arena or going on a jungle trail, and playing specially-designed games while riding. Each of these games are designed to hone skills in a particular aspect of growth and well-being, such as spatial awareness, speech production or articulation, balance, core strength building and more.
Not all activities are done with the clients riding on the horses. Some of the most exciting ones are done with the therapy horse loose in an arena, together with the client and therapist. Because horses are ultra-sensitive to our energies and emotions, having our client interact with them helps shed light on our clients’ headspace, facilitating greater self-awareness and, upon discussion and release, catharsis.
On some days, we engage in Stable Management tasks like braiding the horse’s mane or whipping up a carrot salad for them. Our clients love such activities for the sheer fun of it, but they also bring about benefits such as improving coordination and motor skills. Activities like these allow our clients to be intimate with the horses in a setting other than riding, and encourages them to interact with both therapist and horse on a deeper level.
At the end of each session, our clients are invited to untack the horses (if they have taken them for a ride prior), once again contributing to their sense of responsibility. They also get the chance to feed the horses carrots or apples – their favorite snacks – as a form of gratitude and reward, and closing off the session on a good note.
Here at THERIS, we believe that our clients are active agents of their own progress, thus we do our best to allow them as much autonomy as possible during sessions. Clients are invited to choose their preferred activities or, when riding, routes. While this may seem trivial, it provides them with a sense of control and efficacy over their environment – a key component in any kind of recovery.
Just as no two people are ever exactly the same, no two sessions are either. Each session brings with it something new and meaningful, and the magic of it all is that the clients themselves influence what it is.