With a history of randomly hitting his little brother, aggressive yelling and general outbursts of upsetting behaviour, a family searched for something, anything to help this pre-teen deal with his emotions.
Traditional therapies and councillors were not getting far with this youth when his mom asked if she could bring him out to Legacy Ranch. She said that in the traditional counselling setting, he would shut down and not engage with the very people trying to help him. Could a horse help?
We kept the first session very light and fluid. Although I had an idea of the issues facing this family, and I had prepared exercises to work on, I was not committed to the session going in any particular direction.
We started with meeting the horses where the young fellow got to walk into the pen with a half dozen horses at liberty. It’s always interesting to see which horses come close and which ones move away when a new person approaches.
After a few minutes of petting horses and us chatting, I gave the boy a halter and asked him to put it on Rock. Of course, as he’d never interacted with horses before, he had no idea what to do. As he tried to figure it out, I backed away a few feet and observed. He smiled and talked quietly to Rock. He looked at me for guidance and followed the instructions.
Eventually, we walked out to an open area where my assistant had laid out some pylons, masking tape and a felt marker. We talked about why his mom brought him, and what it was like trying to communicate when he was struggling with emotions and behaviour.
With Rock standing nearby, the boy wrote down the words representing his various emotions on the tape and we put them on pylons. As we stuck them to the pylons, he told me of times when these emotions were alive for him. As he spoke, Rock stood quietly and with her attention on him.
As the boy and Rock were both fairly relaxed, I elected to ramp the exercise up a little bit by having the boy mount the horse. He had not ridden before, so I wasn’t sure at the onset of the session that he’d get on.
Once mounted, we made up a game where he focused on the words one at a time, rode his horse over to it and tried to get her to knock the pylon over. It was a fun little game… and interestingly, the only pylon he was never able to get Rock to stomp on was “happy”!
Down with ANGER, ALONE & COLD, WORRIED, ANNOYED and others!!! We ended the session with him being happy and energized. He told his mom all about it and shared with his brother about the lovely horse he met.
A few days later, his mom reported to me that the experience had a lasting effect on her son as he woke the next day still talking about his time with Rock and the ease and peace he experienced held longer than expected.