ST. GEORGE – An alternative form of therapy used by Fortune 500 companies and celebrities is available in St. George.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning are therapeutic processes that help all kinds of people learn life skills and coping strategies with the help of horses. These programs are available at the Dual King Ranch in St. George.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is a program where a client interacts with horses with a licensed psychotherapist present. This program can have enormous benefit for people with mental illness, substance abuse problems, or past trauma in their lives.
Equine Assisted Learning, on the other hand, does not require the presence of a psychotherapist. In an Equine Assisted Learning program, clients learn about themselves through interacting with horses. Clients can gain confidence in many areas of their life through their interaction with horses.
Greg Kersten, founder of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning, believes that horses have incredible healing powers for humans.
“I believe that horses represent kind of a basic template for people to understand things better,” Kersten said. “Because horses are large, sometimes intimidating, sometimes spiritual, and sometimes romantic-type creatures, people identify with what they do. Through interacting with the horses, people start to understand their life situations better without having to say, ‘I have a [mental] disease or a shortcoming.’ They can start to understand how they got to where they are right now. Through the horses there are pathways to become more okay.”
Bob Bergren, executive director of the Dual King Ranch in St. George, has seen Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning help people who have problems that other therapies may not have alleviated.
“Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning can be beneficial for people with autism, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, substance abuse issues, and challenged, disadvantaged, and at-risk populations of children and adolescents,” Bergren said.
Horses are especially able to help people with substance abuse and addiction issues because horses can have addictions, too.
“Horses will become addicted to behaviors,” Kersten said. “If they break into the grain bin, they will eat that whole grain bin and then probably colic and die. That is probably a very similar mental reaction to an addiction, where they overdo something to the point of hurting themselves.”
However, when horses are left on their own, they don’t develop those behaviors.
“Wild mustangs do not fall prey to those same addictions that domesticated horses do,” Kersten said. “It’s a manmade, human-created type situation when horses become addicted … it’s all because of human interactions, not their own natural interactions.”
Both of these programs – Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning – are carried out at the Dual King Ranch with a licensed equine specialist and with horses. People don’t need to have mental illness or addiction issues to benefit from these programs. Equine Assisted Learning is very helpful for people who need confidence, self-esteem, or other emotional support.
“The [ranch] environment itself helps people,” Bergren said. “It lends itself to allow a person to relax and open up, which gives them opportunities to be more focused on issues that are pressing in their life.”
Becoming comfortable with horses in Equine Assisted Learning can help people become comfortable with difficult issues in other areas of their lives.
“It’s a process of them becoming comfortable with themselves in environments that are initially out of their comfort zone. They gain confidence through doing things and experiencing things in a safe environment. Then they can translate that out to other areas of their lives,” Bergren said.
“When someone’s overcome a difficulty with the horses,” Bergren explained, “I can ask, ‘What made this work for you here?’ And then there’s an answer. Then I can ask, ‘Could you do something similar to that in a venue of your life that you are struggling with – like your job, school, a relationship with a friend or a family member?’”
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning can particularly help people who are afraid of trying new things.
“People don’t avoid doing things for the fear of failure. They avoid doing things because they don’t know if they can handle the success,” Bergren said. “They avoid doing things for the fear of the success and the responsibility it will bring.”
Part of the beauty of learning and growth is that there is no finish line. Equine Assisted programs are no exception.
“The process never ends,” Bergren said. “You always look toward the next step.”
Greg Kersten is coming to St. George for an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning seminar Oct. 28, 29 and 30. It will be held at Dual King Ranch, 1054 N 1100 W, St. George. Prior registration is required.
You can learn more about the seminar and about Equine Assisted programs at www.dualkingranch.com or by calling Bob Bergren at 435-619-2711.