Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Power of Horses to Heal; Riding Home

For many modern people, horses are a thing of the past.  They were once useful, but now they are just pets for the rich and not thought much of anymore.

This book was brought to my attention at a trade show and has a powerful message for today's population that is increasingly urbanizing and detached from nature.  The author has an interesting background for this book.  We learn that his childhood was disturbed by fighting parents and that he was 47 when he  first rode a horse in 1992.  He learned a lot since then and has watched how horses have transformed the lives of many troubled people.

Humans have evolved from being at the mercy of the environment to dominating the rest of living beings.  Horses have survived as prey creatures in a world that is taking them for granted and relics of the past.  Tim Hayes uncovers for us what horses have to offer mankind.

Humans reached our dominant position by being superior animals of predation.  Horses are prey animals and have survived by being able to avoid being eaten.  Eyes and ears are independent and can cover wide range.   Each eye has bi lateral monocular vision.  Their ears can rotate.  They can feel a fly.  As herd animals they must learn to get along.  They are also very sensitive to interpreting the intentions of other creatures they are confronted with.  Although humans may mask their emotions horses can detect inconsistencies with our actions.  Trust is vital to a horse.

Tim gives an example extreme of sensitivity in describing his experience with a cutting horse.  Although Tim had had little experience he found that the horse knew almost instantly what cow he had identified as a target.  This was attributed to proprioceptive abilities, meaning they could detect very slight changes in the rider such as tilting their head.  If you have ever seen a top cutting horse it is a thing of beauty with the best needing little direction from the rider.
Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP) in Colorado was developed to use cheap labour to tame wild horses.  Long term prisoners who were mostly city people with no experience of horses were selected for this experiment.  The prisoners were asked to approach horses on the ground and found the horses often uncooperative.  Gradually they were taught to train the horses in a natural way so they could be ridden.  A strange thing happened.  In the process of trying to understand what motivated the horse they came to better understand human relations.  One of the results was that the recidivism rate became half of the national average.

Tim wrote next about a returning Marine suffering from PTSD who had been given various forms of therapy and had given up when it was suggested she try equine therapy.  Equine therapy has proven to be quicker, cheaper.  This idea has spread to Canada.

Tim also got involved with Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) and found that many of them also suffered from a form of PTSD.  Abused as children they found difficulties in forming relationships as adults.  Often small things would trigger reactions.

Autism is a behavior with many variations and a only beginning of understanding.  Tim doesn't claim that all autistic people can benefit from equine therapy, but has found that the process can be very helpful.  I am reminded of 

After giving examples of how horses have helped many troubled people Tim makes a number of generalized  observations.  We tend to deal with horses and young children in a similar manner.  We adults tend to belittle their fears.  Tom feels it is better to acknowledge a fear and work through it.

He describes most horse training as traditional and admits that it is quicker and more economical than natural horsemanship.  Many great men have advanced beyond traditional training.  He gives examples of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Napoleon who all had a close relationship with a horse. Unfortunately armies often are forced to use traditional methods and that is what has mostly been passed on.

Reference was made to studies that on one way see a link between ADHD (attention deficit, Hyperactive disorder) and how much tv and indoor electronic activity is indulged in.  In another way it is suggested that contact with nature reduces ADHD.

Tim gives good reasons why horses have more than ever, to contribute to our human culture.  Hopefully more people will become aware of what horses offer before it is too late.  You can read more about Tim's very interesting life and how horses can make us better humans at:  One group who is helping was also at the same trade show as Tim can be read about at:

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