Healing horses help people deal with trauma during pandemic

·2 min read
Chantel White is a certified equine gestalt coach and has been helping people deal with past trauma for eight years.  (Natalie Axten - image credit)
Chantel White is a certified equine gestalt coach and has been helping people deal with past trauma for eight years. (Natalie Axten - image credit)

The pandemic has left many struggling with their mental health and to deal with it some are turning to an unusual therapy.

Chantel White, a certified equine gestalt coach, helps people focus on healing from past trauma, especially abuse and sexual abuse, with help from horses.

"Horses are very intuitive beings," White told CBC's Edmonton AM on Monday.

"They're very, very aware of what's happening around them and are very aware of what's happening within people so they pick up a lot on incongruence."

Even when people tell themselves they are fine, when in reality they are not, a horse would pick up on it and help them deal with it, she said.

Her clients don't ride the horses, rather they interact with the animal through sessions. At her practice, Equine Reflection, in east Edmonton, she runs individual and groups sessions.

One of the group sessions involves a three-day intensive program where people work together to heal in the presence of horses.

"Groups are really helpful because people can really resonate with what's happened to another person," she said.

She said she saw an increase in the number of people reaching out for help in the middle of the pandemic, especially around September, October and November.

"They are just really feeling the effects of not having any support, especially even being out with their traditional community and friends" she said.

Horses are aware of what's happening around them and within people, White says.
Horses are aware of what's happening around them and within people, White says.(Natalie Axten)

White's programs are designed for women and teens to help them deal with past assault or sexual assault.

Her horses pick up on feelings and help her clients through them, she said.

As an example, White was in discussion with a client who could not speak about their trauma when one of her horses came over, picked up a cushion from a nearby chair, threw it on the ground and repeatedly struck it with its shoulder.

When White made her client face what the horse was doing, the client began crying, recalling how they had been raped.

White has been offering therapy for eight years, although her relationship with horses goes past that.

"I was one of those people that just was born loving horses. I always enjoyed being around them — got into training them and showing them — that it felt like there was something more for me," she said.

There is something about horses that have always made her feel better, White said.

"People say that all the time. They just instantly feel better when they're around them."