BROOKFIELD – For as long as she’s been a therapist, Janet Tomlinson has owned at least one horse.
She knows first-hand the healing properties horses, and other animals, can have on humans and is now sharing that with clients. Tomlinson has two co-therapists – Emme and Kallie – and offers programs through Healing through Horses in Brookfield.
“We call them co-therapists. They are sentient beings,” said Tomlinson, who has been a therapist for more than a decade. “Horses really can mirror our emotions. This is different than the day-to-day talk therapy, and I like that.
During her career as a therapist, Tomlinson learned about equine therapy and started thinking about offering it to her clients. She saw a program on a woman in Alberta doing this type of work and reached out to her.
“It’s always that case where there’s not enough time or money for training,” said Tomlinson. “I saw the program four years ago and said, “I have to do this.””
Tomlinson has taken certification courses through Equine Facilitated Wellness Canada. There are three different levels of training, all of which Tomlinson has worked through.
“(Equine therapy) isn’t as well known on the East Coast as it is Ontario-west. It’s a pretty new phenomenon. It’s a new concept that is unknown to many.”
Tomlinson said she and clients will focus on the horse’s behaviour, so they aren’t focusing solely on the client.
“It’s such a metamorphosis, how the horses mirror the issues that person is struggling with,” she said. “I find horses are very in-tune with our emotional presence. Depending on what the person is exhibiting in the emotional vein, the horse will move closer to them and pick up on their emotions.”
When a person is upset, said Tomlinson, a therapy horse offers comfort.
“They take a bit of the focus away from the client’s focus,” she added. “It always amazes me when they offer up something.”
The therapist says clients still benefit from talking, however many don’t trust other people while they will trust a horse.
“That is huge. When they trust a horse, they can begin to move to trust humans in their life again.”
With horses in her life for so long, Tomlinson has “absolutely” seen the benefit of equine therapy.
“It’s one of those things I took for granted over the years,” she admitted. “But then I realized just how much they have given me. From grooming them to spending time with them. If there’s a day where I need a break, I will go out to the barn. Even that is comforting.”
While some clients may not always be talkative, Tomlinson said she’s found working with her co-therapists a little different than her other work.
“Clients are put more at ease a little better. For example, if they’re just grooming one of the horses, the client is distracted and they begin to open up a bit more,” she said.
With four horses on site, two are Tomlinson’s co-therapists at the moment. She said it’s important to know the horse’s background before determining if they’d make a good co-therapist.
Kallie, for example, came from Alberta and wasn’t handled well in her previous years.
“She really resonates with others with their own trauma,” Tomlinson said. “She’s been through her own trauma, she’s lost a set of twins, so she takes a lot of time to trust people.”
Tomlinson also has two other horses – Frank and Fiddich – who may eventually become co-therapists. On the property are also two dogs and two cats, all whom will mingle with clients as well.
Throughout the years, Tomlinson has worked with many clients with addictions and has found many also have mental health issues.
“A lot of that time, that includes PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and they might be self-medicating,” said Tomlinson. “I’ve started seeing more and more of that. It’s becoming more prevalent – I’m not sure if it’s from their occupation and/or they are just being referred more.”
She said great work is being done with her regular practice when it comes to PTSD, as well as out in Alberta and the United States – not just with veterans, but others with PTSD.
On May 14, from 9 a.m. to noon, Tomlinson is offering an introduction to the benefits of equine facilitated therapy for first responders. Carol Marquis, from Saskatchewan, is joining her for the introduction.
“Some people get nervous walking into an office setting. Sometimes with PTSD, depending on the situation, there can be issues with trust, but they can often connect really well with a horse,” she said, adding she’s gotten great response so far on the introductory program from first responders.
“The program will be an introduction, to give them a better understanding of what it’s all about. If a first responder has an interest to carry on after that, they will know I’m here.”
For more information on all the programs offered at Healing through Horses, visit www.healingthroughhorses.ca, check out the Healing through Horses page on Facebook, or contact Janet Tomlinson at 902-890-3853 or email@example.com.
*Editor’s note: This story was published in the May edition of Hub Now with the incorrect phone number. It has been corrected in this version.