As a support to students during finals week, the Counseling Center is inviting two mini therapy horses to campus from a local therapeutic riding center, Equi-librium. Therapists “Pippa” and “Penelope” will visit campus 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 9 to help students relax, ground, and receive the emotional boost that comes from fostered connection with therapy animals.

This program will involve a brief sensory meditation with Brent Maczko, a yoga and mindfulness teacher on campus, followed by a guided interaction with one of our visiting therapists, Pippa or Penelope. Please join in this unique opportunity to ground and connect during the bustle of finals week.

What is Equine-Assisted Learning and Therapy?
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) encompasses a variety of activities that are designed to help participants develop a deeper understanding of themself through collaborative activities with their equine therapist. It’s growing in popularity on college campuses as researchers have studied the physical and emotional benefits that come from human-horse interactions. The National Institute of Health identifies that interacting with animals decreases the stress-related hormone cortisol, and lowers blood pressure. Connecting with these adorable therapists can help reduce feelings of loneliness and increase feelings of social support.

Why are Horses Good Therapists?
As prey animals, horses have sharp senses that perceive small changes in both the physical and emotional space. As herd animals, horses connect deeply to their group. In the wild, horses will synchronize their heartbeats to the other horses in the herd in order to sense danger and react more quickly. Human-horse interactions suggest that domesticated horses also adjust their heartbeat to their human partners. As such, horses will read and react to small changes in our mood, which creates a unique opportunity to notice and manage our emotions in a way that creates a harmonious and grounding experience with the therapy horse.

Just as some humans are well suited to careers in counseling, certain horses demonstrate qualities that make them excellent therapists as well. As human therapists engage in training and education in their field, therapy horses are also provided with similar training that exposes them to a variety of environments, emotions, and behaviors. Horses that excel as therapy horses are naturally interested in engaging with humans, curious about their environment, reactive to their own senses, and flexible to changes.

Join in 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 9 on the Quad to experience the healing power of horses and learn more about our visiting therapists, Pippa and Penelope!

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