As an avid rider and a descendent of horse and mule trainers, I know first hand the healing power of a horse and herd behavior. However, my journey as an equine specialist, and now an equine-assisted psychotherapist, evolved from the expressive arts. This combination of equine and expressive arts is a healing art in itself culminating in a co- and self-regulatory sensorimotor practice, resulting in transformational meaning making experiences. My own drawing practice as child–literally on any surface–signaled to my artist, writer, and horse-riding grandmother that art would be a pathway to my career as an expressive arts therapist. What has unfolded in my practice, since 1997, is the integration of expressive arts and therapeutic riding for residential treatment centers in the form of process groups; the use of phototherapy techniques to create personal narratives from therapeutic riding/groundwork experiences with youth offenders, individuals diagnosed with TBI, sensory processing disorders, acute stress disorder, ASD, and PTSD. However, for me, equine-assisted expressive arts therapy as an embodied “felt sense” experience emerged from our collaborative programs that were “situated” in indigenous communities: this approach reaffirmed the healing aspects of “bottom up” interventions. As a result, sensorimotor exploration and hemispheric integration across the midline (bilateral stimulation) comprise the foci of the equine-assisted expressive arts therapy approach with respect to regulatory processes, for example, response artwork (painting, clay, nature art), mindfulness-based and bilateral movement, visual journaling exercises, fiber art (felting, weaving), and sound (humming, drumming, singing).
How exactly do we operationalize Equine-Assisted Expressive Arts Therapy?
Equine-Assisted Expressive Arts Therapy incorporates all five disciplines of the expressive arts (visual, dance/movement, music, drama/theater, and writing/poetry) with equine-assisted psychotherapy. This multimodal, sensorimotor-based approach interweaves the healing power of the expressive arts with established equine-assisted models to provide a dynamically oriented approach to therapy.