Polyvagal Ponies is a program developed to assist an individual's ability to develop and access emotional regulation skills when facing stressful events or circumstances. The goal of this program is to reduce the body’s stress response when in a challenging situation or environment by teaching skills that can help the individual calm their autonomic nervous system (ANS). For example, testifying in court or managing a stressful or challenging situation can limit one’s ability to regulate their nervous system. When individuals are highly dysregulated, anxiety can lead to avoidance or hyperarousal, both limiting one’s ability to participate in stress inducing situations. After completion of Polyvagal Ponies, it is hoped participants will implement the regulation skills taught in the program in their daily life. It is the expectation these skills, when practiced and incorporated into daily life, will lead to a reduction in stress, anxiety, and dysregulation and increase confidence when facing challenging circumstances.
During the eight session Polyvagal Ponies program, participants are encouraged to experience their autonomic reactions through experiential interactions with horses. In this fun and interactive manner, participants have the opportunity to learn about their own nervous system by interacting with and learning from the horse. Skill acquisition is only possible through awareness, practice and when engagement in a regulated manner.
It is our intention to see Polyvagal Ponies utilized to fill a void in treatment for individuals facing a variety of stressors. A shortage of mental health providers worldwide has resulted in those in need of care remaining on long waitlists without hope of timely help. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s data on State Health Facts showed that in 2022, 47% of the U.S. population faced a mental health worker shortage (kff.org). The timeline for traditional in-office psychotherapy is not typically set and is dependent on the needs of the client to meet their treatment goals. This could take months or even years and limits the number of clients a therapist can work with at any given time. Polyvagal Ponies offers an alternative treatment format which allows for more clients to be served given its short-term, eight session design and its ability to be implemented with groups. Although it is not the intention of Polyvagal Ponies to replace traditional therapy, it can serve as a bridge for clients with delayed access to services.