Just like first responders, horses have survival tactics. As prey animals, these tactics include an awareness and sensitivity to the arousal state of those around them. So if the first responder is in any way dysregulated in the moment, the horse will experience it. This manifestation of self in the horse, a form of rapid biofeedback, calls for immediate awareness. Recognizing these signs can assist the first responder to practice physiological and emotional regulation back to a more healthy state. The more this awareness is experienced and practiced with the horse, the more likely the first responder will be able to recognize these patterns and implement tools in other areas of his/her life.
Horses have an inherently gentle nature, are curious and desire to work within a herd or community. Like humans, horses are social with distinct personalities and moods. Learning to accept and adjust one’s self to these dynamics assists the first responder in effectively handling interpersonal relationships at work, in the community, and at home.
Additionally, horses have a powerful presence. They are magnificent animals that are not always easy to control. Relinquishing this sense of control can often be challenging for first responders, yet is highly therapeutic and beneficial. When we recognize our approach to these challenges we can then identify our thoughts and behaviors in other areas of life. Again, awareness is key. The more awareness, the more likely effective steps can be made towards relationships and lifestyle.
Lastly, OurWatch embraces the science that humans learn best by doing. For first responders, the repetition of certain movements and skills, also known as muscle memory, results in maximum efficiency with minimal conscious effort while on shift. The effectiveness of this approach is also true for off-duty skills, including communication skills, emotional awareness, regulating impulses and angry outbursts, scheduling family time, and maintaining a more healthy lifestyle. If these skills are only talked about and not practiced, efficiency will not occur. Incorporating horses in wellness and resiliency training allows for a hands on experience where learning occurs by doing. The individual is provided the space and guidance to identify and assess circumstances, make connections, build and improve skills, and create a path to healthy solutions.