Polyvagal Ponies

The Polyvagal Ponies program is a six-session protocol for children and teenagers that are facing anxiety provoking or stressful situations such as testifying in court or experiencing novel or frightening events. The goal of the program is to reduce stress when in a challenging situation or environment. Once they have learned the skills of calming their nervous system it is hoped that they can access the skills at a later date.

Initially, the skills are taught through a series of equine exercises and didactical techniques which the child can later access when in high-stress situations. Polyvagal Ponies utilizes Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory by teaching techniques, such as recognizing how your nervous system is interacting with the worlds around you and how to interpret what state it is experiencing. The states range from a feeling of safety and connection to a state of defensive fight flight and lastly, a state of extreme shutdown as experienced when feeling highly threatened or vulnerable.

After learning about the role of the vagus nerve, it is anticipated that the participants will understand that the autonomic nervous system (ANS) has an essential role in detecting threats and encouraging social engagement through supporting a calm state. Experiencing cues of safety is imperative for optimizing comprehension and communication. These cues are transmitted via vocalizations and facial muscles for humans and are transmitted through expressive ears and body language for horses. Horses rely on their nervous systems to make sense of the world around them. By interacting with horses, we can experience the impact of two nervous systems connecting.

During the six sessions, participants are encouraged to experience their autonomic reactions by interacting and experiencing a horse.

The protocol also includes several “boosters” when participants are not actively engaging in the horse-human interaction.

Interested in participating in a Polyvagal Ponies Session? Contact us to get started!