How I Discovered Equine Therapy

The Intro…

Hey ya’ll! Have you ever thought about volunteering with equine-assisted therapy?

My equine therapy journey started in the fall of 2018. Bear with me on a little backstory leading into how I discovered equine therapy.

Ending that beautiful spring day in 2017, red and blue lights whirled around my driveway as a detective read a few short words typed on a white paper labeled, ‘search warrant’. Those few words revealed the truth as to the seedy activity my husband (at the time) was engaging in on the internet. Those few words left me not only physically standing in the dark of night but emotionally feeling dark (if you desire more details they can be found in my book). An unexpected suggestion led me to a new activity that has resulted in numerous accounts of my emotional healing.

The Details…

An unexpected suggestion:  

A few months into my corporate position in early 2018, a coworker threw out her words to me, “Hey, you should go volunteer at equine therapy!”

I fired out, “What the…? What makes you think I want to do that?”

Needless to say, my rudeness struck her nerve as she quipped back something to the effect, “Well, excuse me, I was just suggesting, Li! You don’t have to do it!”

Leaving her office with tense emotions between us, I was mumbling about her irritating suggestion.

Equine therapy? Who wants to go and help horses recover with therapy? I am the one who needs therapy with all I have been through this last year! Why would I want to go help a horse with physical therapy? Both of us stumbling around, acting like I care about its injuries—how boring. I don’t have time for that!

Four months later, my fingers typed “equine therapy” in the Google search bar. Mouth open, eyes wide, I laughed, discovering that the equine therapy, suggested by my co-worker, wasn’t physical therapy for horses. Turns out, she was referring to equine-assisted therapy, the use of horses in therapy to assist mentally, emotionally, or physically challenged people.

What? Well, now I know!

For those desiring more details on the differences between equine therapy and equine-assisted therapy, check out my blog post: Discovering the Answer to the Question: What is Equine Therapy?

The Why…

Discovering equine therapy:

To truly discover equine-assisted therapy, I submitted a volunteer application and scheduled in times to volunteer at the barn. Volunteering with equine-assisted therapy consists of helping with various tasks. One may start with going to get the horses from their stall. Next, a person grooms the horse, which basically means brushing the horse before tacking it up with the saddle pad, saddle and bridle. Volunteers are utilized in assisting the riders getting on/off the horse and may lead or sidewalk during the session.

Now with many experiences at the barn, I have discovered equine-assisted therapy not only aids the one coming for a session but also avails healing aspects for those assisting during the sessions. A person can find regulating connections through grooming/tacking up/leading the horse or even just side walking.

The Sum Up…

My discovery continues:

Needless to say, giggling through my shock, intrigue sparked inside me when I first discovered equine therapy. The success stories I read online shed light on a hope for healing inside of me…maybe someday. I have found much healing from my trauma/drama experience and plan on finding much more. My childhood love for horses has rekindled being around these beautiful animals.

It was by chance suggestion that I discovered equine therapy several years ago. My gratitude abounds for my co-worker and her words. A few minutes to submit the volunteer application that day started a journey I am still pursuing to this day.

A personal story:

At the arena, he appeared. My first encounter with a physically challenged child who was ten or younger. He was attending his first equine-therapy session. The physical challenges to his body hindered the use of his legs. Riding the horse, those tight leg muscles loosened and stretched, producing stronger core muscles as they worked to balance through the movements of the process.

Before he mounted the large animal, and then again in the saddle, his insecurity became apparent with the continuous questions directed at his father.

“Dad? Dad? Are you sure this is a good idea?” His eyes searched frantically for his father. “Dad?”

His sweet, patient father reassured and encouraged him, “Yes, this is awesome! You are going to be okay up there!”

The child, again and again, either asked to ride near his dad or wanted to know where his dad was. Finally, a short break to stop by the enthusiastic man during the session heightened my awareness. The jovial interaction between these two caught my attention.

First, the child would appear nervous, wavering back and forth. He leaned far forward in the saddle, appearing tired, ready to be finished. Then, all a sudden, he would sit up straight and pick up his hands, attempting to rein the horse along the arena.

This outer depiction of my own inner wavering brought on the urge to throw down the lead rope and run, but then, reining in my longings, I would choose to take another step and keep going.

As we circled near the man, this child, eyes lighting up the darkness and sitting a little taller in the saddle, shouted confidently, “Dad, do you see me? I am riding the horse, Dad!”

Dismounted and settled back into his wheelchair, the young boy asked, “Dad, can you push me into the arena so I can see the horse?”

Prince, calm and still, greeted the young rider’s open arms with a soft, head-bobbing nuzzle. In exchange were kisses that covered the long face down to the muzzle.

The untacked horses grazed lazily by my vehicle as my hands pulled the car door into place. Sighing heavily in the dark, I looked out, thankful no one could see in. Tears flooded my eyes and flowed—an entire box of tissues, used and wadded, created a pile in the passenger floorboard throughout the forty-five minutes it took me to drive to my parent’s home. It was a beautiful night, experiencing this child trusting his father.

This true depiction of God, how He relates to and loves. Patiently, gently encouraging us, waiting, and ever so slightly, quietly building trust.

Desperately, I wished for this to be me, trusting innocently. But my heart ached, slashed and gaping open, bleeding from the wound.

I was hooked!

Clemmie-Li Clyde - April 20, 2023

The Question…

Have you found an activity where volunteering your time has led to healing in your life?

The Challenge…

Check out volunteer opportunities in your area – maybe even fill out and submit the online application!

The Live Beyond It Encouragement…

Have a fantastic rest of your day and may you shine the light of hope brightly into someone else’s lifelong healing journey!

Thanks for stopping by…😊 See ya!

Photo credits on this post: My son, JF, and Clemmie-Li Clyde

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