Arabian Rescue Therapy helps clients by using horses

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Article Originally Published by Maria Lawson on North Texas Daily

Arabian Rescue Therapy in Krum uses equine therapy to help people learn about themselves and be relieved of what they may have experienced. 

Arabian Rescue Therapy was founded in 2016 by director and Denton resident Rebecca Boardman with the intent of helping people by therapy with horses and people.

“In 2016, I finally decided to launch it as a nonprofit because at that particular time, I had found the connections between horses and mental health, which had personally kept me alive my whole life,” Boardman said. 

Clients pay for sessions by appointment and are accompanied by a horse and human to provide therapy. 

“The main modality that we base our program off of is called the Eagala modality,” Boardman said. “It is human-facilitated, but the horses themselves are the therapists. Horses are unique in the animal kingdom in that they are able to reflect human emotion.”

Equine therapy takes a different approach from talk therapy because people are allowed to interact with the horses, then the behavior of the person and the horse are studied. 

“The person is allowed free interaction with the horses, it’s very much like play therapy, and the horses, in turn, reflect whatever emotion is being displayed at the subconscious level by the client,” Boardman said. “We have a skilled facilitator, which is a human person, and they can read the horse’s body language along with this human body language. Then we ask open ended questions to the client. What that does is it allows the horse and the horse’s behavior to become metaphors for whatever is going on in the clients life.”

All of the horses at Arabian Rescue Therapy have been rescued from unsafe backgrounds and then rehabilitated to live better lives and be able to help others. 

“Rebecca rescues horses that are starving, beaten and usually very close to death,” said Leslie Simoneau, volunteer and equine specialist and Euless resident. “Out of the hundreds of rescues she has brought in since I started volunteering with her, every single horse has been able to regain trust, security and love for humans.”

Arabian Rescue Therapy sees individuals of many different backgrounds that come to seek help. 

“It is trauma healing,” Boardman said. “With equine therapy, most of the clients that we see have had the worst of the worst. We’re talking suicide witnesses, suicide survivors, sex traffic victims, recovering drug addicts, PTSD.”

Clients like Irving resident Megan Scott feel comfortable with the horses and have been able to see the difference that they make in their mental health state. 

“With a horse, everything’s out in the open and you know they’re not judging you,” Scott said. “They make it pretty clear what they’re feeling and thinking and I think that’s why it’s so much easier for humans to connect with animals — they’re just easier to understand. I’d say the most beneficial thing with this is that the horse is just as broken as you are, so making that connection comes pretty easy.”

In many cases, horses can provide more help for people in need than human therapists.

“I suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD, so I’ve been seeing a therapist since I was 12, and I can say without a doubt that these past two years with Rebecca [have] done more for me than the six years seeing a psychotherapist,” Scott said. 

In addition to the therapy itself, the horses can provide people with love and life skills that they can take with them after the sessions are over.

“The horses are very grounding for these people,” Boardman said. “They help to teach mindfulness, and of course there’s that unconditional love. They can benefit most importantly in their mental health. Just by being with the horses, they can find that it helps them holistically and improves their mental state and improves their physical state by being outdoors and in contact with a breathing creature that will be in the moment with you unconditionally, and of course spiritually. It’s incredibly powerful.”

Volunteers have been able to see the direct impact that the horses are having on people as they warm up to them throughout therapy sessions. 

“I have seen clients transform from feeling completely broken down mentally and staying very distant from the horse, to feeling love and security in the horse and spilling out their life stories while hugging its neck,” Simoneau said. 

Arabian Rescue Therapy utilizes volunteers to keep the place running. Through volunteering, individuals are able to learn more about horses and how they can help people. Currently, Boardman, two licensed professional counselors, a certified hypnotist, four volunteers and over 30 horses work together to keep Arabian Rescue Therapy functioning. 

“The most important lesson I’ve learned from my time volunteering is that horses are absolutely incredible, loving [and] forgivable creatures,” Simoneau said. 

Arabian Rescue Therapy puts on events monthly during every full moon to allow women to come together in a context separate from therapy. Their last full moon gathering was last Saturday. 

“What I usually do at these full moon gatherings is I will integrate some form of either equine-assisted learning or like a practice. This [month] is in celebration of the spring, but next month is going to be concerning energy.”

Arabian Rescue Therapy gives people a chance to get help in a way that is different, and in some cases more effective, than traditional therapy, and Boardman said she is confident that clients can find much healing and growth through her horses.

“You can get more done in two or three sessions of equine therapy than you can in a year of talk therapy,” Boardman said.

Prospective clients can book a session by emailing arthorsetherapy@gmail.com.

Featured Image: Rebecca Boardman, who practices Arabian Horse Therapy, interacts with one of her more than twenty permanent equine residents. Image by Ryan Gossett

Source: North Texas Daily