Horses, Humans, and Healing
By Tim Hayes
I am proud and deeply grateful to share with Equine Journal and it’s readers that after it’s first year as a best selling hardcover, St. Martin’s Press has just published the paperback edition of my book Riding Home – The Power of Horses To Heal with a Foreword by Robert Redford!
After years of teaching the principals of Natural Horsemanship and helping humans create better relationships with their horses, I became fascinated with the ability of horses to not only cause humans to become better riders as well as better people, better partners, better friends and better parents, but to actually facilitate in the healing of a wide variety of human emotional wounds that include veterans with PTSD, children with autism and at risk youth. From years of study, research and experience I discovered there were two natural hard-wired characteristics in horses that enabled them to remarkably initiate the emotional healing of a wide range of wounded men, women and children. The first is Hypervigilance; the second is Equine Herd Dynamics that utilize textbook perfect social skills.
As a prey species horses are hypervigilant, which means they remain on continuous alert for their survival. Humans with PTSD and autism are also hypervigilant. When either one of these hypervigilant humans interacts on the ground with a horse there is an immediate non-verbal identification with what seems familiar in the other. This immediately reduces mutual stress, feels safe and comfortable and most importantly produces a level of emotional healing that is created by the extraordinary inter-species compassion that occurs as a result of their relationship.
Equine herd dynamics, which imbue horses with the unending ability to get along with each other, also evolved as a way to ensure survival by enabling them to stay together and travel in the safety of large herds. The herd leader or alpha horse as well as every other member of the herd establishes their dominant place in the pecking order with the use of, or threat of, physical contact. What can start with the pinning of ears can eventually lead to biting and kicking. Having to participate in these physically aggressive interactions and to then be able to live in harmony and get along with each other is only possible by the entire herds ability to continually practice the flawless social skills of acceptance, tolerance, kindness, honesty, patience, understanding, forgiveness and compassion.
Horses do not judge other horses or humans. Horses only judge their behavior. When a person’s behavior is kind, accepting, tolerant, understanding and compassionate, so is their horse. When a horse feels safe with a human who is not exhibiting predatory behavior he will usually begin to approach and interact with them. He accepts the human as he or she is. The horse does not see a war veteran who may have seen and done horrific things, he sees another being. The horse does not see a child with autism, he sees a child.
For a man or women who suffers excruciating emotional pain from the horrors of war, or an autistic child who has endured his or her entire life as someone whose parents, teachers and friends all thought that to get better meant the child needed to change or be different, establishing a relationship with a horse can often be the first time any of these men, women or children feel love and acceptance for their true selves.
For many people who read Equine Journal, the power of this interspecies relationship is unquestionable. It is now my hope that the information in my book will help those who know nothing about horses as well as someone who needs help: a husband, a wife, a partner, a child, a friend, a troubled teenager, a war veteran with PTSD, someone with autism, an addiction, basically anyone in emotional pain or who has lost their way. It is this amazing power of horses to heal and teach us about ourselves that is accessible to everyone and found in the pages of RIDING HOME—The Power of Horses to Heal. © Tim Hayes 2016
To learn more about Riding Home—The Power of Horses to Heal as well as how I can help contribute to fundraising events for nonprofit organizations visit: www.ridinghome.com. Every book ordered will benefit children of families in need, veterans with PTSD and children with autism.