The Human Whisperers: Horses Act As Couples' Therapists

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horses couples therapy
These gentle, sensitive creatures are helping turbulent couples get back in the saddle.

Picture this: your relationship is on the rocks and you're in the market for a couples' therapist. You do an online search and encounter a form requesting your preference: male, female or...equine?

Believe it or not, horses are the latest therapy trend for couples that have reached the end of their tether and want desperately to restore their connections. ABC's Nightline has been profiling these couples in a three-part special about Relationship Ranch in Louisville, CO, where on-site horses are available to lend an ear to lovelorn (human) clients. It turns out horses are sensitive and highly perceptive creatures who react openly to human emotion. A horse's quiet presence and honest response tend to have healing effects on vulnerable clients — many of whom, at first, feel understandably silly telling their problems to, well, an animal. That is, until they realize how incredibly therapeutic it can be to open up to a third party without the risk of being judged.

Laugh if you will, but think about the bonds so many of us have with the animals in our lives. Many people have experienced firsthand the steadfast love of a dog or a cat. Animals can sense fluctuations in our emotions in ways that many humans sometimes cannot. Their love is unconditional and has been known to break down even the most stoic individuals. Recently, the singer Fiona Apple made headlines for postponing part of her tour to be present in the final days of her elderly, sick canine, Janet. In a touching note to her fans, Apple asked for their understanding. She explained that Janet had been there through breakups and other hard times, and she felt she owed it to her pet to return the loyalty in her time of need.

Similarly, dogs are frequent visitors at children's hospitals, elderly facilities and other places where their companionship is called upon to heal. The proven health benefits of animals range from decreased anxiety to lowered blood pressure. In that context, it seems to make perfect sense that horses would have the ability to draw us out and provide consolation. 

That's not to say that couples on the rocks shouldn't seek the help of trained — human — therapists. In fact, few would dispute the necessity of such therapy. But the healing power of animals is hard to argue, and for the more sensitive among us, horses may just be the missing link in a treatment plan that can put us back on an unbridled path to relationship bliss.

Would you try equine therapy to heal your relationship?

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