Learning Emotion Regulation through Natural Horsemanship
Over the past 2 months, I have attended 3 clinics with Tik Maynard (One which was also with Sinead Halpin who is incredible!). When signing up, the immediate goal of attending these clinics was to improve my horsemanship skills and gain a deeper understanding of how to work effectively with my horses. Once there, I recognized that most of what I was being taught relied on having the ability to recognize my emotions and manage them effectively. While working as a therapist, this has become second nature. I can effectively manage my emotions during a therapy session because, if not, I am of no benefit to my clients. I have to be emotionally available and able to experience a variety of emotions in response to what my clients are sharing. In contrast, when riding, I always tried to be even tempered and low energy. I had the belief that this was the best course of action for my horse. They did not need to experience any sort of high energy emotions from me. Through these clinics, I learned the importance of increasing and decreasing my energy according to what my horse needs. If I want my horse to give me personal space or to go faster, I need to increase my energy. If I want my horse to slow down, I need to decrease my energy. Through doing these exercises, I have developed a deeper connection with my horses. Additionally, I have gained a greater understanding of how to feel and express a wide range of emotions/energy at a moments notice. I attending these clinics thinking I would just be learning practical horse training skills, and I left feeling as though I had attended a practicum in counseling theories. If only they offered continuing education credits!
How does this apply to my counseling practice:
Recognizing and managing emotions is something most people struggle to do and is a primary reason people attend therapy. During some of my equine assisted therapy sessions, I focus on helping clients to decrease their anxiety through breathing with their equine partner or matching footsteps. I used to think about emotion regulation in the sense of decreasing negative emotional states. After attending these clinics, I have a variety of new activities I am excited to share with my clients in order to help them experience a wide range of emotions. Sometimes we need practice experiencing joy, anger, excitement, or anxiety in a productive way. Being able to acknowledge and experience a wide range of emotions gives us the ability to have a better quality of life.