Are you an equine-assisted therapy and learning practitioner, equine professional, therapeutic riding instructor, or hippotherapy practitioner who wants to become more trauma-informed and enhance your work with people and equines through the lens of nervous system co-regulation and attachment dynamics?
Are you a horse trainer, equine behaviourist, horsemanship instructor, riding coach, or other equine health or bodywork professional interested in working with horses and their humans in a trauma-informed way?
Are you a Somatic Experiencing® student or practitioner (or similarly-trained professional) curious about how equine-assisted practice can support your trauma recovery work and how SE™ can be applied to the horses themselves?
Are you a human health, helping, healing, learning or coaching professional who is interested in learning more about trauma-informed care and horse-human interactions?
Do you believe that healing and growth for one cannot occur at the expense of another, and that both equines and humans are deserving of consent, choice and a voice?
Consider the EQUUSOMA® Certificate Training for your continuing education goals.
- Licensed through the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute in Boulder, Colorado with certain training materials reviewed by Dr. Stephen Porges, developer of the polyvagal theory
- Explores equine-human relationships from the lens of trauma, attachment ruptures, nervous system patterns and co-regulation
- Incorporates ethological principles surrounding affiliative and conflict behaviours and calming signals (inspired by the work of Lucy Rees, Rachaël Draaisma, and others)
- Is grounded in equitation science, learning theory, the humane hierarchy, and other related models and research
- Promotes trauma-informed care principles in horse-human interactions
- Dedicated team of training assistants with extensive experience in Somatic Experiencing® and/or equine-assisted practice to support each in-person training module
- Pre-approved providers of personal sessions and case consultations located worldwide to support you in further integrating the material
Trauma can show up in any horse-human interaction
- Trauma-affected individuals are often drawn to horses and alternative approaches in support of their recovery. When talk therapy fails, and when specialized trauma therapies are not available, equine-assisted programs fill a gap for people who are desperate for change and who are drawn to the human-animal bond.
- Many individuals who have experienced trauma turn to horse ownership, riding lessons, and various equestrian disciplines as a way of finding a sense of competence, empowerment, life enjoyment, safe connection, achievement, aliveness and calm.
- Unfortunately, without trauma awareness and skillfulness, horse time and services or programs that offer it can unintentionally lead to harmful re-enactments for both two and four-legged participants. This is because trauma can also be present in the horses themselves, and in those offering the programs or services. Trauma is truly its own specialty area, and being trauma-informed is an essential part of safe and effective interactions for humans and for equines, even if not providing trauma treatment for either human or horse.
Attachment and trauma are somatic experiences
- Our capacity for life and relationships is impacted by trauma and other adverse experiences. When the nervous system is continually primed for danger and life threat, it is difficult to stay present to sensations and emotions and to relate to ourselves and others in healthy ways. For many, safety is a luxury that was not available, and the body especially has not been a safe place to live.
- Relationships have also not been a source of safety for many equines and humans. Bringing the body back into the equation requires specific skills in order to navigate the complex survival responses and body memories that hijack life, relationships, and boundaries – all of which arise in equine-human interactions.
Somatic Experiencing®, horses and humans are a natural combination
- Dr. Peter Levine’s research on the impacts of stress and trauma on mammal nervous systems and Dr. Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory have important implications for understanding and working with humans and equines in the process of trauma recovery in each species. Somatic Experiencing® offers a practical way for trauma neuroscience to be understood and used to support (co)regulation, resonance, presence, coherence, boundaries, aliveness, an integrated sense of self, attuned relationships, relational and boundary repair, and the renegotiation of incomplete self-protective responses.
- As a polyvagal-informed approach, Somatic Experiencing® also brings subtle nuances of body reading to the process of working with horses and humans, learning to recognize where they are on the nervous system map of activation or threat response, when they are in sympathetic (stress arousal or trauma activation) or parasympathetic (relaxation, rest and digest, social engagement, or submission / shutdown) states.
This EQUUSOMA® Certificate Training provides a grounding in the principles of trauma-informed care, relevant Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) skills and frameworks applied in the context of trauma recovery for equines and humans, and practical applications of the neuroscience of attachment theory and polyvagal theory around the power of safety in relationships.
The material aligns with modern ethology about what we know about equines as social, herd-oriented creatures who naturally seek affiliation and connection and only mount self-protective responses or dominance when necessary or under stress or adverse conditions. Humans, too, are built for social engagement and connection first, and have the capacity to mount stress and survival responses when necessary. Both humans and equines can experience attachment ruptures and trauma, and experience re-enactments of familiar patterns of misattunement with one another. These patterns reinforce old beliefs and nervous system responses that contribute to an ongoing felt sense of helplessness, danger or life threat, that relationships are not safe, and that things don’t change.
However, for both equines and humans, trauma and attachment ruptures can be healed in relationship.
The training offers a combination of theory, experiential learning, and practice, through lectures, videos, small and large group discussions, case examples, personal first-hand experiencing of the material, facilitation/co-facilitation practice, readings and assignments. There are daily experiences with the horses, ranging from observation, approaching, boundary interactions, relational processing at liberty or on line, etc.
Each training cohort will experience a different order and delivery of the material, due to the unique combination of the backgrounds of the participants, each facility’s set up, and the horses themselves (herd dynamics, personalities, nervous systems, attachment styles, histories of adversity / training / handling / etc.). Variability aside, the training program will touch on:
- Trauma, addictions, and dissociation in horses and humans
- Somatic Experiencing® theory and selected skills (titration, tracking pendulations, containment, resourcing, thresholds)
- The polyvagal theory and attachment theory
- The window of tolerance and faux window models
- Attunement, co-regulation, social coherence, and synchrony
- Choice and consent in touch and relational engagement
- Relational and boundary rupture and repair
- Interoception, exteroception and neuroception
- Recognizing nervous system states and planning interventions accordingly
- The F states of safety: friends, freedom, food, forage, fun, force, falling asleep, fidget (and flatulence!)
- The F states of survival: find, fawn, fight, flight, fidget
- The F states of conservation: freeze, fold, faint, feign death, fragment
- Mammalian psychophysiology
- Interspecies comparative psychology
- Equitation science, LIMA and the Humane Hierarchy
- Trauma-informed practice
- Trauma-specific treatment
- Applying the concepts in one’s scope of practice
- Working with various populations
- Facilitation and co-facilitation skills and troubleshooting
- Understanding additional human and equine “treatment” options (for referral or further training)
EQUUSOMA® Practitioner Designation
To obtain the designation of EQUUSOMA® Practitioner (ESP), students must complete:
- Fundamentals Training – offered online
- 2 Practical Intensives in person (5 days each; 10 days total)
- Personal sessions
- Assigned readings
- Written reflection assignment
Ready to find out more? Click here to find out about registration requirements.