Supporting trauma recovery with the healing presence of horses

Other animals think with the whole of their bodies.
David Abram

Somatic Experiencing® is a body-oriented therapeutic model applied in for healing trauma and other stress disorders. It is based on a multidisciplinary intersection of physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics and is the life's work of Dr. Peter A. Levine. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma. It offers a framework to assess where a person is stuck in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these physiological states.

Somatic Experiencing® & HORSES
Connecting in an embodied way with horses opens us to discovering our authentic selves and learning new ways of settling and grounding body and mind. Horses can help us become more comfortable in our own skin, more trustworthy to ourselves and others. With their help, we can find a more reliable sense of physical and emotional balance, resilience and ease.

Horses, as vigilant prey animals, read not only our movement behaviors but their underlying emotional tone. Often our movement behavior and emotional expression unconsciously reflect an unsettled or distracted state of mind. As we bring greater mindfulness to how we move and the effect of our movement and emotions on the horse, their responses can help us feel when we are dis-regulated, anxious or unaware or finding a more regulated and easeful state of being.

When we meet others - including other species - our systems begin to synchronize. This is sometimes called bio-synchrony. We begin to mirror each other's rhythms, movement, respiration, heart rate and emotional tone. This is a bodily, emotional sensing of another being - an empathetic, echolocating, embodied experience of reciprocal resonance.

This co-regulating, co-embodying experience of connection helps to nurture an intuitive, improvisational, feeling response to what is arising in the moment rather than being caught in habitual or automatic ways of responding. With horses, this means finding a shared settled state with the horse, where we are listening more than telling, and creating opportunities for responsiveness and resonance rather than tension and reactivity.

Somatic Experiencing® can be helpful with the following:
  • Ongoing, unresolved symptoms resulting from injury, physical or emotional trauma,
    including developmental trauma.
  • Feeling as if you need to be alert and vigilant all the time, never safe or able to fully relax.
  • Difficulty in expressing feelings.
  • Chronic anxiety, panic, or shut down.
  • Hyper-reactivity or sensitivity to even the smallest trigger.
  • Difficulty in being alone or being with others
  • The same patterns of behavior appearing again and again, despite your best efforts to change them.
  • Feeling unable to notice your bodily sensations, or feeling uncomfortable about being in your body.
  • Self-soothing with addictive patterns, including substances, food, shopping, media consumption.

    Conscious Movement and Touch support ease and balance in the bodies of both horse and human, helping us become more aware of what we are signaling with our bodies and minds. Being with horses is an opportunity for discovering an improvisational and exploratory inter-species relationship using the shared languages of movement and touch. As we become attuned to the responses and expression of the horses, we are better able to notice what our own bodies are feeling and what our emotional responses are. Moving with a horse, touching a horse can be the beginning of a deeper relationship with ourselves.

    I am available to teach at your facility, and enjoy working with you to develop a program that best suits your needs and interests. I also see clients privately both in my movement studio in Kent, CT, or at the barn in upstate New York with my horse partners Blue and Izarra.

    Contact Paula to book an appointment or get more information.