Miniature Horses and Adolescent Girls
One of the challenges of treating adolescent girls with eating disorders is overcoming a low innate sense of self worth. When dealing with young girls whose personalities have not fully formed, who frequently view themselves as flawed, and have difficulty identifying with strong figures or those who they view as larger or stronger than them, equine therapy can be cathartic.
During group last week, an adolescent girl felt intimidated by the full sized white and speckled grey horse that towered over her. As she approached the horse, the horse stepped away from her as it reflected feelings of uncertainty. She said she felt it was her fault the horse stepped away and that something was wrong with her. The young girl thought about those negative thoughts and admitted she had always felt that way. She was able to identify feelings from earlier in the year where she felt her best friend rejected her in high school because she wasn’t good enough. Girls who frequently weigh less than 100 pounds can struggle with a large horse weighing more than 700 pounds and that towers over her. One thing that relieves the struggle for these young ladies is the miniature horses at The Meadows Ranch.
The next time she came to an equine session she spent time with the miniature horse family. At Remuda, with the birth of our newest baby miniature horse, we now have 4 miniature horses. The names of the mini family members are Nutmeg, the mom, Charlie, the dad, Comet, the son, and the new born baby girl that Nutmeg just had recently, Cinnamon. The adolescent patient immediately identified with Cinnamon as she shared she was the youngest of her family and has an older brother. In addition to that, she related that Cinnamon had innocence to her and was romping and playing around the other horses, things that the patient related that she had always wanted. In the session, the patient was also able to relate her idea that Cinnamon was precious to the mini family and through that identified with her own preciousness to her family, which relieved some of her fear for her upcoming family week experience.
Adolescent girls attending a group with these miniature horses seem to let down their guard. Similar to their cats or dogs, animals that they know they are larger than, miniature horses are animals that they can lean down to pet and feel safe around. Mini’s are still able to integrate the patients into the “herd” and allow the patients to take their natural role in the family system and create a healing moment.
About The Author, Molly Cook, LCSW, LISA
While working as counselor at The Meadows, she received Post Induction Training (PIT) by Pia Melody on The Meadow’s model. Also she received supervision by Dr. Claudia Black in Family Systems. Additional trainings attended included education on trauma with Petever Levine and Bessel van der Kolk. She is licensed in Arizona as a Clinical Social Worker and Independent Substance Abuse Counselor. Certifications include Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), Level II, EMDR, and from the Grief Recovery Institute (GRI).
Equine Therapy at The Meadows Ranch
For additional information about the treatment of eating disorders, please call to speak to a Counselor at 866-390-5100 and we will contact you with the information you need.