by: Anh Lai-O’Connell, LCSW
On Saturday June 27, 2015, RMCC hosted its first Equine Therapy ½ day retreat at Happy Dog Ranch in Littleton. Terri Bauer, LCSW (Thornton) and Anh Lai-O’Connell, LCSW (Aurora/Parker) partnered with Kerry Borcherding, LPC (Experience the Wilderness Within/Hope Held by a Horse) and her support staff to provide the program to six patients from across the network.
During the group, each patient was partnered with a clinically trained facilitator and therapeutically trained horse. The facilitators guided the patients through exercises designed to assist them in staying in the present moment, while encouraging them to explore their emotions and authentic experience with cancer. The horses did what they do best—as incredibly sensitive and intuitive beings, they were in attendance with a silent, supportive, nonjudgmental presence. Standing next to their horse, absorbing their calming presence, and looking into their reassuring gaze, each patient created a bond and was invited to a deeper experience of self.
As a field, equine therapy shows to improve patients’ physical, social, and emotional well-being. Patients’ feedback has been very positive. Patients reported enjoying the chance to participate in an activity outside the clinic and grateful to have to have left the group better equipped to deal with the emotions of their diagnosis. Terri and Anh are looking forward to partnering with Kerry and her staff again to be able to offer this group to more RMCC patients.
I’ve relieved that day so many times—I have found that it [cancer] doesn’t hurt in the same way. I’ve been carrying a lot of emotional stuff with me for a long time. I look at how I deal with my cancer differently, I am able to look at my whole life—I’m a complete person. I am not as afraid as I was.” -Patient with Breast Cancer
“I just want to thank you for the equine therapy. I really loved the horse that I worked with…. Combing him reminded me of working on horses when I was a camper at Girl Scout camp, bringing me peace and serenity.” –Breast Cancer Survivor
“First of all, I want to thank you and the other facilitators for a fantastic experience. It gave me a chance not only to work with the horses but also understand what other survivors are experiencing in their journey with cancer. I would definitely recommend this to other patients.” –Patient with Prostate Cancer