MADISON — Melisa Pearce believes humans owe horses an apology. She believes people should apologize for not appreciating the service horses have given to humankind over the ages. Despite the lack of an apology and acknowledgement of their gifts, Pearce has found horses are still willing to give to people, especially clients struggling with psychological issues.
A psychotherapist from Colorado, Pearce has noticed her horses help her clients achieve wellness through a therapeutic connection. This led Pearce to develop a deeper appreciation for her horses as they become special partners in her therapy program.
“To me, my horses are angels,” said Pearce.
Pearce shared the experiences gained through her equine-assisted therapy program at this year’s Midwest Horse Fair. Held April 12–14 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, the annual horse fair observed its 40th anniversary.
In her presentation, “The ‘How’ of Horses as Healers,” Pearce talked about how her horses help her clients overcome the effects of trauma and other psychological issues. In recent decades, there’s been a rise of equine-assisted therapy programs that have proven helpful for sufferers working to cope and move beyond their traumatic experiences.
“Twenty years ago, I would have been run out of town on a rail (for using equine-assisted therapy),” said Pearce. “In the 1980s, my psychotherapy practice and horses collided. Just like training methods have come light years, so has our understanding of horses (as therapeutic aids).”
Pearce became aware her horses were connecting with her clients when she observed individuals from her herd were approaching clients standing at the pasture fence.
“I was working with clients when I noticed different horses would spend time with people standing on the other side of the fence,” said Pearce. “The person’s energy field completely shifted (during the encounters).”
Pearce asserted horses have the ability to feel energy, which to an uninitiated observer, might seem to give the animals psychic abilities. She referred to this trait as being clairsentience, defined as the ability to perceive what is normally imperceptible.
“Horses are dialed into humans’ emotions,” said Pearce. “They’re reiki masters.”
Reiki is a healing therapy where life-force energy is transferred through a practitioner’s hands resting on the person seeking healing.
Pearce uses the Gestalt method with her clients; as a practitioner, Pearce finds horses are a natural with the type of therapeutic approach.
“Horses are phenomenal Gestaltists,” said Pearce. “Gestalt is defined as ‘life is happening right here, in this moment.’ One of the ways to deal with issues is to be in the moment. Horses live in serenity in the present moment.”
Pearce contended people are prone to neurosis and will spend a lot of time being fearful. They also tend to hold onto the unfinished business in their lives.
“The stuff that happens to us stays in our cells,” said Pearce.
She says horses can not only heal people psychologically, they can heal those suffering physical wounds.
“Horses know where you hurt,” said Pearce. “Horses care about what we feel. They understand emotions and the heart. Listen to your horse, your best friend. Take the time to create the bond.”
She said too many times horse owners make plans to do things with their horses without considering their horses’ mental state. They arrive at the stable in a rush, like a “hurricane blew in.”
“They (horses) were having a good day, until you showed up,” said Pearce. “Horses don’t know why we’re in such a flippin’ hurry. Trouble happens when the person is in a hurry. People should just ‘be’ when they are with their horses. They (horse owners) should just drop the agenda.”
Horses can also perceive when people are lying to themselves and equine therapists insist on honesty.
“You can’t con your horse,” said Pearce. “Horses are OK when a person is not OK as long as the person is honest. What they want most from people is joy.”
Pearce said her husband claims she is a “Dr. Doolittle” because she will use sign language to direct her horses to touch clients’ chests (heart) with their muzzles, making a connection to help the client heal. She simply touches her nose with her fingers and then points to the client to cue her horse the client needs the bonding.
More information about Pearce, her horses and program can be found on her website at www.touchedbyahorse.com.