Why we work with animals
Animals are honest and will confront behaviours and attitudes
immediately as they arise
They are non-judgemental and affectionate
Firstly we do NOT ‘Use’ animals, nor are they called ‘It’. Our animals are valued members of the team, given the same respect as our fellow humans. Their comfort and needs are as important as our own. The horses are free to be horses in their herd, no nasty bits or heavy saddles are used. When sharing space with the horses, often work is done at liberty, meaning that the horses are free to move away if that's what they need to do. Due to the way the horses are treated here, we become part of their herd. This provides opportunities to develop bonds with each herd member and offers rich experiences of each horse’s uniqueness. At Kanukadale Care Farm we balance the needs of the human attendees, with respect for the needs of the animals.
Benefits of working with animals:
It is well documented that the presence of an animal - even fish in an aquarium reconnects people with nature and their inner sense of calmness. Participants will often project their feelings onto the animal, the participant then becomes aware of their feeling, say fear for example and now has the opportunity to process that fear, see what works, what doesn’t and clearly see how their own actions affect others- in this case the animal.
For people who don’t relate well to others, an animal can offer unconditional love and does not care what colour your skin is, your gender, your verbal capacity or what your past is. Animals offer a healthy, safe, non-threatening attachment for clients who have difficulty with humans. Eventually, this social interaction and connectedness can be passed over to other parts of the participant’s life. The participant can direct their love and touch onto the animal and it is socially acceptable for men, women and children to caress and hug an animal. The participant can learn gentle, attentive touch attending to the animal’s immediate cues and needs
Animals as teachers and friends:
Adding an animal to the therapy session softens the power imbalance between client and therapist. It is well known that people with animals are seen as more approachable and trustworthy. The animal becomes a medium for conversation and often the client projects their own feelings and experiences onto the animal. This projection is a safe way for the child to express and disclose previous experiences.
The motivation to learn can be stimulated by the presence of an animal; through immediate experiences, the child sees to the needs of the animal and this can be passed on to other areas of the childs life. When learning new concepts, more information is retained when the student is emotionally invested. The simple experience of brushing an animal causes the body’s midline to be crossed over and over again activating the corpus-callosum stimulating the brains learning centre.
Horses and humans have an unlikely bond as prey/predator species. This unique relationship creates upheaval in our psyche. The horse is a large, powerful creature and has the ability to seriously harm a comparatively fragile human, yet they seek out our affections. They allow us to ride them, rug them, pick their feet up and will jump mountains for us.
Horses are non-judgemental and accept people regardless of their gender, race, culture, skin colour, language skills. Acceptance is the basis for building trust. Physiologically, horses lower blood pressure and heart rate and therefore stress levels. Horses allow attendees to give and receive safe touch as horses have no inhibitions or ethical or legal ramifications to keep them from expressing their love and acceptance through physical closeness. Horses model self-awareness and awareness of their environment. They pick up subtle changes and respond authentically. Horses do not lie or pretend.
The horses survival depends on being part of a herd, therefore they are very social beings and highly attuned to their environment. They are aware of subtle changes in the environment, in the other horses and in other people. They respond to nonverbal cues and react authentically to them. Horses often reflect back what the human is feeling, when the human changes, the horse changes. Each horse has a different personality and temperament just as each human does, what works for one horse may not work for another one so the participant must observe and alter their own behaviour and break old patterns.