“I can make a General in five minutes, but a good horse is hard to replace.”
This week, I will be talking about Ironwood’s equine therapy program, also known as equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP). Equine therapy is a type of therapy that involves equine animals, namely horses. Equine therapy is available to any resident whose therapist schedules a session, but Frye residents have a chance to partake in a group EAP session about once a month every Tuesday. A reason why EAP can be so helpful to residents here is because horses require you to be vulnerable and authentic about how you are feeling. Horses and other equine animals are herd animals and are also prey animals, so they require you to be open and honest if you want to form a connection with them. This creates a cool opportunity for residents to be honest about what they are thinking and feeling, something that if necessary for therapeutic progress.
I have had a lot of personal experience with equine therapy. It certainly helps that my therapist is Chris P (the person who leads Frye EAP sessions) has a lot of knowledge. For my first three months at Ironwood, most of my individual sessions were equine therapy session. This meant that I would do an average of one EAP session a week with just me, Chris, and a horse named Ace. I can recall one experience where I was having trouble “connecting” with Ace and it gave me a lot of frustration. Finally, I gave up and started talking to Chris about personal issues I was having. Once I was at the point where I was visibly showing my emotions, Ace walked right over to us as if he was trying to join the conversation. This is a great example of how you have to be authentic and vulnerable if you want to form that relationship with the horse. This session and other sessions were very helpful to the progress I’ve made while living here.
Our equine therapy program is definitely a significant part of many peoples programs. Equine therapy has been very important to my program, and I’ve seen it be incredibly helpful to many people around me. I believe that there’s something about animals that makes people want to be open and vulnerable around them. My personal thoughts on this is that there’s a certain innocence about animals that make me feel more comfortable being my true self around them and expressing how I really feel. They don’t judge you. I am very grateful for the equine program we have here, it’s helped me and I know that it has helped countless others.
We also want to share that this week we said goodbye to Ace, our eldest member of the equine team who passed on 10/21/21 at the age of 33. Ace was an unbelievably great horse and Ironwood employee for longer than most of us humans. Ace touched the lives of hundreds of Ironwood residents over the years and we will miss him terribly. Rest in peace Ace ☹