Natural Lifemanship is a type of therapeutic intervention that is relationally rich and developmentally sensitive. It utilizes horses, sound principles of equine psychology, and an awareness of human brain development to repair and enhance all of life’s relationships. It is driven by the beliefs that a sound principle is a sound principle regardless of where it is applied, and that all mental health issues result in dysfunction of intrapersonal and/or interpersonal relationships. There are many effective horse training techniques. Natural Lifemanship specifically teaches a model of applied horse psychology that uses only principles that seamlessly transfer to human psychology. Participants learn these principles and then begin to evaluate the principles behind what they are already doing with horses to assure that those principles effectively apply to human relationships.
The methods of natural horsemanship employed in this model are based on an understanding of the psychology of the horse, and strive to deepen the relationship instead of forcing it. The application of the principles behind these methods empower people to build healthy and functional relationships based on trust, respect, and understanding. This is first learned in relationship with a horse, and is then actively and passively transferred to clients’ relationships with themselves and others. Through the counseling process “horse whisperers” are transformed into “life whisperers.”
The client’s reaction to life experiences determines how they create their relationships. As a result of various adverse circumstances, including, but not limited to trauma, abuse, neglect, combat, grief and loss, sickness, and pathology, they often develop ways of coping and interacting in relationships that become a pattern. These coping mechanisms and relational interactions, while once necessary for survival, become detrimental in situations where survival is no longer the overriding concern.
Clients will often follow this developed pattern when creating a relationship with a horse. Horses respond honestly to their behaviors and internal states, so they can easily recognize the problems they create in the relationship with the horse. Clients can then identify how they create those same problems in relationship with themselves and others, and also identify the problems for which they are not responsible.
Mounted work is used to address very specific therapeutic issues. It is not used for recreation, to get “buy in” from the clients, or with a primary goal of teaching horsemanship. The intervention of horseback riding is utilized to provide the rhythmic, patterned, repetitive movement needed to reorganize and heal the brain on a cellular level, to help clients learn to self-regulate, and to allow them to further recognize relationship patterns and deepen intimacy. Riding is used only when it will be more effective and efficient than anything that can be done on the ground. The same principles that drive Natural Lifemanship when done on the ground are applicable and even intensified when on the back of a horse. Many clients are unable to do deeper, insight-oriented therapeutic work until they are able to bring their level of arousal to a place that allows them to gain and retain insight, and benefit from higher level learning. This level of regulation is most profoundly learned on the back of a horse. Participants will learn the why and how of incorporating mounted work into Equine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions. Natural Lifemanship facilitates a process whereby clients are able to stabilize, learn to self-regulate, address and move through past or present damaging life circumstances, understand how those circumstances affect their current interactions, and make the personal changes necessary for healthy, fulfilling relationships in the present and future.
Come to a Fundamentals of Natural Lifemanship Training and join the hundreds of mental health and equine professionals who have learned how to use TF-EAP to support the healing and recovery of their clients. Find an upcoming training near you or subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed of when we will be in your area.
Already attended a Fundamentals (formerly known as “basic”) training? We offer NL Intensive workshops to those who have been through a Fundamentals training and who wish to deepen their understanding and practice of TF-EAP. Read about our Intensive training.
Learn about how to become certified in TF-EAP.