WHAT IS EFL / Wellness

Why Equine Facilitated Wellness?

In these unprecedented times coming through COVID, our lives being lived through social media, mental health, confidence and self esteem issues are more prevalent than ever.  More and more kids are being diagnosed as neurodiverse, ADHD, stressed, depressed, anxious or have behavioural issues.  Teens are battling with their identity, sexuality, career path and general direction of life.  Access to peer’s perfect lives through social media influences kids, teens and adults as to how they feel they should live their lives.

Imagine giving yourself permission to live your life authentically, without judgement and confidently.  Equine Therapy is growing as an alternative therapy from the traditional talk therapy for kids, teens and adults.  Horses only work with you congruently, they do not judge, they do not care if you wear the latest fashions, earn millions of dollars or what color you are, they see you for you.  Not only do they see you for you, but they mirror how you feel, how you see the world.  Sometimes we need to really look in the mirror to see who is looking back at us and when that feedback is from an equine who can give you love, confidence, relationship, this is something we all strive for. Did you know a horse can hear your heart beat from five foot away, they understand your emotions, your energy just from standing close to you.  They feel from their bodies whether they can trust you, whether you are sad, whether you are happy or want to play.  They teach us to do the same.  Through working with the horse, gently understanding those emotions from our body, working in a somatic way.  Listening to what our body tells us changes the motor neurons in our brain and thus allowing us to learn new behaviours and become our authentic self.  We stop listening to that story in our head and listen to our heart and our gut.

Through working with the horse and learning about relationship, communication, boundaries, body language, understanding our senses and how they can have an affect on everything around us, we can truly understand what is it like to be authentic.  In EFL, we work on the ground with the horse, brushing, leading, working at liberty in a round pen or arena.   EFW is recognised by major insurance companies and therefore, we can confidently work with individuals knowing we are legally and ethically covered. 

The Purpose of Equine Facilitated Learning / Wellness

EFL stands for Equine Facilitated Learning.  This helps us as humans with our non verbal awareness.   It is teaching us to have a felt experience in our body.  Psychologists have determined that less than
10 % of communication is verbal.  As a species we have forgotten how to be authentic, in the moment and listen to what our bodies are telling us, rather than our head brain.  We are quick to judge ourselves and others by our own unconscious prejudices and opinions of peers, rather than listening to our bodies and being in the present moment and feeling our emotions.

There is a 3 brain theory, our brain in the head, brain in the heart and brain in the gut.   What does this have to do with the horse?  The horse has a much larger heart and gut field than the human.  The horse feels through its heart and gut.  The horse is a prey animal that relies on its gut to tell it whether it is safe or not.  

It has been proven that too much thinking and remembering (retelling of the story) can actually take us out of the present moment and we no longer feel or experience.  Our intelligence is distributed throughout our body.  If we have direct experience, we are more likely to feel it through our gut or heart, not through the neuro pathways to the brain.  Think about it, when you forget something, you get a hit to the gut, that anxious feeling, this is our brain in the gut feeling.  It sometimes takes our brain to catch up as to why we are feeling that in our gut.  If we do not feel our personal values or goals we cannot live them.  The brain in the heart will actively seek out new experiences and open itself to new possibilities.  Our brain in the heart reads what others feel, its values, beliefs and passions.  This is why horses are so good at measuring the inner state of people.  They know if you are incongruent and responding through the brain in the head, rather than gut or heart. 

The Institute of Heartmath, which is a research organization has measured the hearts electromagnetic field which is 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity of the brain.  So, if you think how large a horses heart is in comparison to the human heart, they can teach us a lot.

The energy that we feel through our heart and gut connects to the limbic brain.  The limbic brain is the part of the brain where our ability to relate is felt and stored.  Therefore, if we are more in touch with our felt senses through our heart and gut, this eventually changes our neuropathways to change deep within.

To summarise Equine Facilitated Learning, working with the horse, teaches us to be congruent, in the present moment and have learned body experiences that change how we feel and react to our surroundings and people.  The horse can teach and show us how to change our neuropathways by listening to our heart and gut brain and using our felt senses.

EFL teaches us to hold a space and see what is happening in the moment.  Horses and other animals do this naturally, so we can learn from them. 

Through repetition, we can transform our limbic brain, we have to work with all three brains to change our thoughts and information. With all three working together, we can live in a conscious place, being congruent, where each day brings us new challenges, but we are able to deal with them through our enhanced felt senses.  Through learning how to have a relationship with the horse through our felt body sense, we learn how to have a more authentic relationship with our human counterparts.  We learn how to listen to our body and regulate what is going on.  If we suffer from anxiety or depression, we can listen to our body and work out what these emotions are telling us and enabling us to be able to decipher what our body is really telling us and what these true emotions are.  We can easily confuse emotions, thinking we are angry, when it is frustration, feeling anxious, when it may actually be vulnerability.  Allowing ourselves to go into our body, understand what these true emotions are telling us, allows us to be our more authentic self.  

The horse can help us understand our anxiety and how we can manage it.  When we want to build a relationship with the horse, we have to work harder on ourselves to have that mutual bond.  To do this, we have to put ourselves in a vulnerable place, but the rewards outweigh the journey getting there.