All animals can be therapeutic to humans, and for each other. We are all linked by our common bond of life and energy. The reason that Equine Facilitated Therapy and Learning Centers are gaining so much popularity is because equines (horses, mules, donkeys, zebras etc.) are very intuitive and empathetic animals, as well as being linked in our collective unconscious with grace, power, spirituality, beauty, and strength.
Because equines act like “mirrors” to us, reflecting back and reacting to our inner feelings despite what we show on the outside, they make perfect therapists! Ever try and hide your feelings from a horse? They will act skittish if you are afraid but act incongruant as if you are not. All animals act congruently, meaning their inner feelings and desires line up with how they act in that moment. Humans have learned to act one way while feeling another….helpful in some situations and not so much in others where emotional intelligence is important for making decisions.
Donkeys, like all animals, live in the moment. This means that they live each moment as it comes, not ruminating on the past nor worrying about the future. This is common practice in meditation and prayer, and it doesn’t come easily! It takes practice for us as humans. When we work with donkeys, whether we are riding, grooming, driving, or simply hanging out with them, they force us to be in the moment. If your mind wanders, they tend to wander off, uninterested. It is difficult to think about past trauma or future troubles when you are with a donkey.
It is hard to illustrate the bond that we form with our animals, and sometimes the best we can do is take a picture or draw an illustration. Wolf, in particular, finds donkey time therapeutic. It relieves stress and helps relieve symptoms of PTSD including feeling tired, irritable, and muscle pain. Wolf says that “it [being with Raymond] helps relieve the emotional traumas of PTSD.”
Wolf says “Sometimes unconditional love is rewarding, such as when I’m with my dog. In those times I will hug him. But other times, when I need to feel as if I am accomplishing something, knowing that I have done something with Raymons that requires me to give a piece of myself, it is as rewarding as a promotion, achieving a goal, or claiming a victory. It makes you remember who you were and who you want to be. I have to EARN his attention.”
Wolf and Raymond connecting and supporting one another:
In this picture I had been sick for a week or so, and Charlie really wanted to check in and see what was going on with me: