Equine Therapy for Social Emotional Learning
Being able to accurately identify and express feelings is a critical aspect of Social Emotional Learning[S.E.L]. ‘ Social and emotional learning (SEL) skills involve developing the ability to understand and manage our emotions, establish positive relationships, develop empathy for others, set and achieve goals and feel good about ourselves’ [Beyond Blue].
As children, we naturally identify with, and express feelings through play, art, or stories. The ability to accurately verbalise or express feelings and emotions tends to come much later. As we develop, we will tend to grow to understand and express core feelings such as – joy, sadness, fear and anger but for some, being able to both recognise and then communicate feelings in a social manner can be a real challenge. This inability to identify and express emotions can impact right through to adulthood.
Horses can be very helpful for emotional or feeling work. As flight animals, they have feelings and emotions just like us and express them in their own ways. They are very attuned to our expressions, energy, and body language. They will either mirror that emotional state or walk away until we are calm enough to re-engage. Horses will feel an emotion, express it and then let it go. As they live in the moment, they do not look back in anger nor look forward in fear. They work with what is in front of them in the present moment. As a rule, they do not bear grudges or carry hostility around with them. This is an important part of helping people feel safe and to allow them to be vulnerable to express difficult emotions later.
Being non- verbal horses are much more sensitive to non- verbal communication than people are. Horses can sense our emotions. They pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and movements and their actions will act as a feedback source.
Equine Therapy for Social Emotional Learning or ‘S.E.L,’ helps us to develop the ability to interact with others. If we can understand and manage our feelings and emotions, then we are more likely to develop a positive sense of self, be confident around others and be willing to explore the world around us.