Jaycee Dugard, the young woman who was abducted as a small girl and held captive for many years is using equine therapy to heal emotionally. She was only 11 when the abduction took place and was held against her will for 18 years. It was reported when she was initially captured she defended her captor, which was interpreted by some as a sign of Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological state in which a kidnapped person shares an emotional bond with the captor and minimizes the danger of the situation. Fortunately it appears now she is pursuing healing work, which would indicate there is no longer denial and no longer any emotional bond with someone who did so much harm.
Equine therapy might be a very good choice for someone who had been harmed repeatedly and betrayed frequently as well, because it can help reestablish the openness required for having healthy emotions in a relationship as a first step towards trusting a person. One of the advantages of bonding with a horse, or horses, is that they don’t have ulterior motives and don’t lie. They can’t talk, so they also can’t criticize, ridicule or verbally abuse.
The founder and manager of an equine therapy ranch north of San Francisco said, “For many people being with animals feels safer than people. Horses, like all animals are non-judgmental and larger visual reflections of ourselves. Working with horses offers new perspectives and pathways for exploration which many people find comforting and reassuring. Instinctively we know the horse has no agenda for us, they are honest, cannot be bribed or manipulated, nor do they make us right or wrong. They respond to our energy and congruency, our visibility and authenticity and they will often move away from us when we are performing, being incongruent or pretentious. I believe many people are relieved to find such frankness.”
That quote is from an interview on this website, from someone who was discouraged as a youth from working with animals, and yet returned to that dream as an adult and now helps many people using equine guided learning and therapy.
“This relatively new technique is a form of Animal Assisted Therapy, which is part of a segment of the mental health world that sees the benefits of taking advantage of the natural bond between an animal and a human being. By fostering the animal-human relationship, supporters of this therapy believe that emotional recovery and transformation can occur. Animals often elicit a vivid array of nurturing emotions, and many people respond positively to the idea of caring for another being.” (Source: goodtherapy.org)
The Lake Tahoe community held a pancake fundraiser for Ms. Dugard shortly after she was freed to help her and her family. This is exactly what someone who has suffered from such abuse needs, to know people care, so she can trust again. Working with horses is likely to help with that also. She missed years of going to school and having normal relationships with friends, teachers and co-workers.
Image Credit: pmarkham / Flickr