Animal Assisted Therapy
By Nikita Hillier
“Animals do speak, but only to those that know how to listen.”
All my life, I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by animals, and to say it has been a wonderful journey would be a modest representation of the truth. These animals have taught me many things, though little of it actually has anything to do with animals. The more time I spent caring for them and enjoying their company, the more I learned about myself. If there was ever a time I felt my emotions arise, it was always an animal I relied on to bring me back. When there was sorrow I was quickly comforted on the back of a horse, if I became anxious, time with my dog was all it took to calm me down, and if I ever felt that time was passing by too fast and I became overwhelmed, it was just a cuddle from my orphaned lamb that reminded me to slow down. After all this time being soothed by animals, it was when I heard the term ‘Animal Assisted Therapy’ that I finally understood.
What is animal assisted therapy?
Animal Assisted Therapy is the use of animals to help heal and rehabilitate patients that have dealt with or are dealing with mental health issues, acute or chronic illness, domestic violence, or even people that are simply looking to learn more about themselves. These animals are used to enhance and complement traditional therapy and bring people into an outdoor setting.
What we can learn from animals.
During my time with animals, I’ve learned far more about life and myself than I have about the animals themselves. Here are some of the amazing things you can gain from animals.
- Compassion- The relationships that form from interaction with animals force us to recognize It enables us to look farther than ourselves and our problems and instead allows us to acknowledge the vastly different needs of others.
- Responsibility- Animals are a highly valuable tool for people of all ages to learn responsibility. It allows people to see the direct effect of their actions and efforts by seeing an animal happy and healthy.
- Patience/listening- Animals have hearing abilities that far surpass ours. This allows them to listen and be patient before reacting to a situation. This is a valuable skill that humans can certainly benefit from.
Want to know about some more benefits? Head down to a local farm or petting zoo and find out for yourself.
Who can benefit from animal assisted therapy?
Anyone can reap the incredible benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy. I am a huge advocate for it, not only for those dealing with mental illness but basically anybody. Recently in Scotland, doctors have decided to start prescribing Animal Assisted Therapy in place of traditional medicine for mental illnesses; and it is proving to be incredibly beneficial. Animal Assisted Therapy is for anyone who believes in the great outcome of it all.
‘Who rescued who’.
The story of myself and ‘Seeker’.
After losing a very special pony to illness, I was feeling down and briefly considered getting out of the horse industry all together. That was until my sister received a call about some ‘abandoned’ horses who needed our help, so of course, we had to go. Once we arrived at the property where these horses were, we noticed plenty of flashy horses but while I was healing from my loss, none stood out. That was until a malnourished, ugly, chestnut colt made his way confidently over to see me. I ran my hand over him and gave him a brief check over while he patiently stood and watched me inquisitively. It was then that my sister made me aware of the fact that nobody had been able to get near him let alone touch him. It was then that little Seeker stole my heart. In a time where my heart was broken and I couldn’t even imagine giving love to another horse, Seeker managed to win me over every single day. Now, after almost three years, Seeker still manages to bring a smile to my face even on the worst days, and sometimes I still think that it wasn’t I that rescued him, but he who rescued me.