Some of the best teachers have four legs, or at least that’s what Gateway Family Service of Illinois client I.G. says. She credits Sonny, one of the mental health agency’s therapy horses, with helping her when life was hard. “In my darkest times, knowing I would be able to get out to the ranch and spend time with Sonny kept me going,” I.G. admits.
Sonny is one of 15 therapy animals that partner with skilled clinicians and equine professionals to help clients heal and reconnect. According to Gateway clinical therapist Gabby Remole, the agency’s unique approach allows children, families, veterans and others to address challenging behaviors and build relationship skills outside the clinical setting.
“I have seen healing and ‘ah-ha’ moments happen more quickly and more organically in equine-assisted therapy sessions that I ever have in talk therapy sessions,” she explains. “Animals have the ability to connect with people who aren’t able or ready to build relationships with other humans.”
Equine therapy isn’t magic, but Gabby admits it sometimes feels magical. Especially when you’re in the presence of Gateway’s intuitive horses. “We could not do this work without them,” she says. “They are our partners, co-workers and family, and we work hard to ensure our horses benefit just as much as the humans.”