Sunday, November 9, 2014

Using Horses To Help Survivors Of Sexual Abuse

That is  the title of a training session that our Victim/Witness staff will be attending this week. They showed me the agenda last week. I am not familiar with the presenter. I look forward to getting to know her.

I am primarily a Juvenile prosecutor, but for over 15 years I have handled the prosecution of nearly every case involving a child victim, a victim with mental retardation, and nearly all sexual assault cases. Our program with the local Veterans Hospital for patients with PTSD has really driven home the point to me that even brief, hands on, exposure to natural horsemanship is a powerful healer.

More powerful than I understand. I see it happen, but I am still surprised every time when I see what a difference it makes.

I think I understand why natural horsemanship can do as much to improve the quality of the lives of survivors of sexual assault as it does. Working with the horse can return the ability to trust to one who has lost all reason to trust anyone. It can restore the confidence of one who has lost the ability to feel confident. Teaching a horse to cooperate and seeing the results of cooperation, affection, and trust can help restore the ability to have a loving, trusting relationship with others. Loving a horse teaches that love still exists in this world regardless of the agony that one has been put through. Being able to make a wild stallion change direction in the round pen by a simple movement of the foot, hands, or even the eye is a powerful thing to one who has come to feel powerless.

Looking back across the ages, as a species we made our greatest leaps and cultural advances only after people began to understand the power of building a relationship with a horse. We will make our greatest leaps in healing the suffering that results from sexual abuse when we harness the power that building a relationship with a horse creates.


Anonymous said...

We see the early and immediate effects that exposure to horses has on people with emotional or mental difficulties and it is always startling to me too...I do not get out to see the Vets much, but when I do, watching the light come on delights me.
I am only now beginning to see long term effects in myself and to examine the benefits that horses have brought me..Snow on Her in particular.
I do not posess the qualifications nor knowledge to examine the effect in others...nor do I know of anyone in my particular situation..although I suspect it is not unique. I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the last year and a half studying these horses in their herd setting and reading everything I could find on the subject...but it never fails that whenI encounter a horse...any horse...any where that some switch in me is thrown and I find myself in "That Place" and I connect with the horse..maybe not always the same way...but it is there.
Snow and I have grown together and continue to do so...she challenges me and makes me think...I probably spoil her more than I should..but it is difficult to walk away when she stands at the gate calling me...that is powerful right there.
I knew nothing of much worth in starting, I am an "ok" horseman, able to observe many things in how they work, watching someone with difficulties become a part of a horse's herd is invariably seems to matter little what the difficulty always seems to help.
In my situation, and as much as I have some issues with psychiatric medicine as it is practiced in this country, I wish I could latch onto someone doing research on these long term might help explain them better...might help me be a better horseman, which, in the end is all I really want. -Lloyd

Anonymous said...

Honestly, whenever I used to hear someone admit to being an "ok horseman" it told me they are far more than that! Any horseman (or woman) realizes that there never is a time when you will really know everything there is. Becoming a better horseman is not only a goal - but a wonderful journey. It NEVER ends!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Maggie. It is a never ending journey..and as rewarding an occupation as any human can claim. It pains me that as much as Equus Cavallus has given Man, we often repay him in poor fashion.

I think that, at some point on the curve knowing too much is a hindrance..sure, there is always something else to learn..another trick in the bag, another way to get from point A to point B..Somewhere along the line, there is place where a person may forget to "feel" the horse..and that is where we begin to lose. The ultimate expression of horsemanship is having healthy, secure horses, having a horse who seeks to be with you, who craves your presence and then is made better for it. Fancy shows and dancing contests, rodeos, and other circuses ultimately do not matter. Of even less importance are the trophies and trappings of such. As Dorrance said, "You have got to go get with him." When you do..that is the real prize.