Will James said it best when he penned these words: “There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.”
For thousands of years, men and horses worked side by side, and for all those years there was no such thing as an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Program. Only after the invention of mechanical power and transportation did people begin to notice the therapeutic value of these wonderful creatures that we took for granted for millennia past.
In recent years, the therapy industry has been swept with an expanding interest in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Studies have been done, books have been written, and seminars and trainings have been conducted all over the world about a relationship that has existed between horse and man from the beginning of time. Why all the excitement now? In a word, because it works!
People change with the times. The industrial age changed the way we lived and eventually changed us. Likewise, the digital age has changed the way we live and it has changed who we are. The only thing that has not changed over the years is the basic “nature of the beast” within us all. It is that basic nature that horses have a unique ability to touch in a way that nothing else can.
The growing popularity of equine programs across the globe has prompted many private schools, therapeutic institutions, and rehabilitation facilities to hire experts, buy horses and equipment, and take other measures to include some sort of equine assisted learning experience at their facilities. The result to the industry has been good and bad. It is good because a whole new way of helping young people achieve lasting wellness is being explored. It is bad because the human resource for truly skilled professionals in both human and horse psychology is very limited. When an institution hires a horse expert who does not understand psychology, the clients are not helped. When a psychologist who does not know horses tries to assume that role, clients are injured. Those who do the hiring in this industry will tell you that finding the right director for a horse program is the toughest position they ever have to fill.
Sorenson's Ranch had a horse program before most of the institutions of its type ever existed. Sorenson’s Ranch has been bringing horses and people together since the late 1950’s. The Ranch founder recognized the magical and mutually beneficial partnership before the industry even had a name for it. During his life he took great pains to refine and understand the phenomenon. He hired key people through the years that could continue to develop this vital exchange that he so adamantly believed in. When the industry began to recognize the value of horses helping people, Sorenson’s Ranch was already a veteran in the field with data and findings to support the expansion of this form of therapy.
Sorenson’s Ranch is a world away from other programs because of its ability to bring clients from around the world to the tops of the Utah Mountains. The Ranch is surrounded by seven national parks in a state that boasts over 90% public lands and the nation’s smallest urban population. Our herd of horses are kept in a ranch setting, in ranch quarters, and are handled in a very “hands on” ranch way. Pack trips and campouts are going out in the splendors of nature continually. Thousands of trails are interwoven across a sea of mountains and lakes. Rivers and small streams are fed from springs that dot the landscape. Our clients ride through all this grandeur.
Some students come to us with no knowledge of horses and leave as expert riders with a real handle on life. Others choose our program because of prior experience and interest in horses and find a world on horseback that they never dreamed of. No matter how our clients come to us, they all leave here with perspective on the past and a vision for the future.
Many therapists will tell you that the key to being effective is to “get inside the client’s head”; however, we in the horse program believe that the real key is to get the client outside and let them invite you into their heart. Sunsets and sunrises combined with lots of wet saddle blankets make a perfect recipe for heart to heart communication. When the clients start to open up, we can really start going places; and strange as it may sound, it is the horses that carry us there.
One of the great advantages to being in places that are pure and unpolluted is that the people you find there are a lot the same way. Clients who participate in the horse program at Sorenson’s Ranch have a rare opportunity to interact with people who have developed a love of the land, a respect for her resources, and knowledge of her mysteries. These people are so very rare in a world that has exchanged a relationship with nature for a marriage to the digital matrix. Sorenson’s Ranch has made great effort through the years to find the right people to mentor our clients, and we pay particular attention to the personnel who guide the heart and soul of our program.
The horse program at Sorenson’s Ranch is uniquely suited to take anyone from where they are and lift him or her higher. Though there are many programs that may resemble ours, we have never seen its equal.