Safety has always been an important word in trauma work. It is not always clear what creates a sense of safety for one person. It is even harder to detect when and if a person is feeling protected and safe. The very act of connection can lead someone to feel vulnerable or exposed. Equine interventions provide a safe opportunity for a comfortable connection. Horses have, like many other mammals, the innate ability to signal all is ok. That signal can resonate with another nervous system, resulting in the dance of connection. The ability to experience and feel a grounded safe connection for even the briefest moment can be a brand-new experience for someone who has been traumatized or for someone whose nervous system has been stretched to the brink of exhaustion.

Signaling that it is safe enough to connect a silent message goes from one being to another. When an individual is frightened by horses, the meeting with the horse can occur over a fence or a barn door. The introduction can take time, even occurring over a few sessions. In some cases, the meeting never goes beyond the fence line. When a client is afraid of horses, whatever or wherever the connection between horse and human occurs, space and time must be provided to explore what it feels like to be in the proximity of these huge animals. To explore a felt sense means what it feels like in the body to be safe. It is not about a cognitive process. Merely experiencing the contrast between the first introduction and subsequent meetings can be enough to support a new type of awareness of what is occurring in the nervous system. Experiential learning provides the opportunity for real-time experiences in a safe and supported way.

Dr. Rebecca Bailey
Author: Dr. Rebecca Bailey

Dr . Bailey is a leading trauma therapist who specializes in complex case scenarios. She has over 30 years of experience in the field and continues to be dedicated to the notion that authenticity, common sense, and kindness are the most important elements of effective treatment. She is a lifelong equestrian and animal lover who continues to believe animals, in particular horses, have much to teach humans about curiosity and compassion.