Training day at Equi- Soul in South Mountain. Left to right are: Amber Denis, Tucker the horse, Jason Abramovitch, Hailey Imrie, Sarah Nightingale, Beau the horse and Shawnna Bilow. Sitting on the horses are: Cynthia Racine and Shelly Foster. Morin Photo
SOUTH MOUNTAIN – The relationship between physical and mental health has always been a special one.
Often one affects the other and looking after your mental health, needs to be a priority.
Amber Denis owns and operates Equi-Soul-Horses for the Soul in South Mountain.
She uses horses to help people who have suffered any number of stressful situations including anxiety and trauma. The relationship between a human and a horse can be extremely therapeutic.
“My official title is equine assistant personal development coach and facilitator.
I have received training to do what I do.”
The official name of the training sessions is EAL or Equine Assistant Learning which is the practice of coaching clients through personal development with horses as our partners. EAL has proven to have better and faster results than regular talk therapy as clients felt more comfortable in their environment.
Horses can teach us many things such as leadership, teamwork, impact, boundaries, self-control, confidence, trust, task focus, patience and so much more.
Denis mostly works with women and children and teen girls who suffer from depression, anxiety, and trauma. “We partner them with horses to help them overcome these challenges,” said Denis.
In early June, Denis invited several people to her farm who wanted to learn how to help people connect with horses. These associates look after the practical side of connecting with a horse while she looks after the therapeutic side of the relationship.
Denis said, “At first we just get acquainted, we learn about the horse. And safety around the horses and then we start a conversation from there.”
Denis explained that she could not do the work she does with people without the help of the horses.
“They really do open up people, they are a huge part of it. I cannot do this without them.”
Horses are very perceptive when it comes to emotions and they are able to sense what a person is feeling.
“They use their instincts to survive in the wild,” said Denis.
“Even though these horses are domesticated they still have those instincts. So, whenever someone is near them they feel what a person is feeling, the emotional side of it. They are that sensitive. If someone comes and they are grumpy or they are feeling a little bit of anxiety the horse feels it immediately and they display it in their own way. So, whenever a client is working with a horse, I know what they are feeling. I will know what is happening inside of them. You cannot lie around a horse they will see right through it,” she said.
“It really helps to open someone up and because it is such a non-traditional setting, we are outside, spending time with a horse maybe brushing it. It makes the conservation that much easier than if you are sitting in a room with a therapist.
It is a therapeutic setting. People come here and are more relaxed. They feel comfortable opening up. They talk with the horse more than they talk with me.”
People are more relaxed around horses.
“Women are more drawn to this program, but I have had lots of men and young boys come out as well and experience the same thing,” said Denis.
It’s not going to work for everyone but as long as you are open to try it, that is what matters.
Working with horses to help open up a human being in order to help them with whatever issues they may have can be used in different ways.
She also works with corporations in team building projects.
She is currently working on ways to help first responders deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and is also working with RCMP on a project they would like to do.
Joseph Morin is the Editor of the Eastern Ontario AgriNews, and the Record. He is, despite years of practice, determined to eventually play the guitar properly. He has served the Eastern Ontario community as a news editor, and journalist for the past 25 years with the Iroquois Chieftain, Kemptville Advance, West Carleton Review, and Ottawa Carleton Review in Manotick. He has never met a book he did not like.