One particular adult patient named Jill came to equine therapy for an individual session soon after arriving on campus. Like Nip, she too was new to the program and still adjusting to her surroundings and the different expectations requested of her. When Jill initially arrived at the session, she was quiet and withdrawn, but willing to experience what equine therapy was all about. I suggested that she acclimate herself to the barn and introduce herself to the horses. I observed that she was instantly drawn to Nip; primarily his large size and gentle nature. She immediately noticed Nip’s twitch and commented that she too had a nervous twitch of picking at her fingernails, especially when meeting new people.
When Nip first arrived at The Meadows Ranch, he too appeared anxious and unsure of himself and his new surroundings. To help Nip acclimate to his new home, together, Jill and I decided to create his own treatment plan to help him adjust and feel more confident in his environment. Jill suggested walking Nip around the property and slowly introducing him to the other horses.
As Jill led Nip around the campus, I noticed that she allowed him to take his time as we explored the different areas. We walked at a slow and gentle pace, which allowed both Nip and Jill to practice mindfulness and connection. During our walk, Jill began sharing personal information about her interests and hobbies. As she felt more comfortable, she began to open up about experiences in her life that have been difficult. I was encouraged by her vulnerability and held the space and validated as she shared more about herself. As we walked, Nip reflected Jill’s courage. He became more comfortable and willing to take risks by checking out the various places and he even seemed interested in meeting the other horses. Together, Nip and Jill were helping each other.
With time, Nip became acclimated to the herd and his surroundings. He developed trust in another horse named Oscar and soon they became friends. Jill too eventually adjusted to the program, made some close friends in her community where she received support and was able to open up about her struggles. She would not have been able to experience these gifts without her willingness to work through her anxiety and allow people into her life.
Although we are wounded in relationships, we are also healed in relationships. When we allow ourselves to connect with healthy and safe people and animals who allow us to be ourselves, we can blossom wherever we are, just as Jill and Nip were able to do.
We Can Help
At The Meadows Ranch, these noble creatures play a crucial role in eating disorder treatment and recovery. The equine therapy program at The Meadows Ranch helps ease eating disorder sufferers into trusting relationships. Our patients often emerge from treatment with a lasting bond with “their horse” and even check in on them long after they have successfully recovered and left treatment.
To learn more about how horses play a role in treatment, visit our Equine Therapy treatment page (https://www.meadowsranch.com/about-us/types-of-therapy/equine-therapy)
For additional information about the treatment of eating disorders, please call to speak to a Counselor at 866-390-5100.By Kristen Zollars, LPC, Director of Equine Services for The Meadows Ranch