EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND EQUINOTHERAPY
Can we improve our emotional intelligence thanks to equine therapy?
We have always heard that an intelligent person is one who gets good grades in school, institute, university … and is successful in life, something directly linked to the IQ. But we were forgetting a very important part of the intelligence that comes into play throughout our lives, emotional intelligence.
Fortunately, the importance of emotions in our day-to-day lives, in our relationships with other people and in our well-being is increasingly being taken into account, and we see how emotional education is beginning to gain importance in various contexts (homes, schools, activities…).
But what is emotional intelligence? Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive one’s own feelings, those of others, distinguish between them and use that information to guide one’s thinking and behavior.
Therefore, we could say that someone emotionally intelligent would be someone who has the following skills:
- Ability to accurately perceive emotions (what am I feeling? What are others feeling?).
- Ability to understand emotions, especially their language (why am I feeling what I feel? Why does the other person feel that way?).
- Ability to regulate one’s own emotions and those of others (“control” your emotions and be able to modify those of others).
An emotionally intelligent person is able to successfully manage emotions in a conscious way to relate more positively with others and feel better about himself, which has a direct impact on various areas of our life (health, relationships, school, work, etc. ). How important, right?
But, how can we work on emotional intelligence through equine therapy?
Here are some examples of how we work on some goals to improve emotional intelligence with the help of our horses:
· SELF ESTEEM
Having good self-esteem is key to ensuring the good of oneself, to love ourselves as we are, in addition to being in charge of maintaining emotional stability.
Self-esteem is in charge of evaluating our well-being and in turn has an impact on areas of social, emotional, intellectual, behavioral and school development.
Dealing with our horses involves unconditional love, they love us just the way we are, they don’t care about our weight, our way of speaking, the size of our nose or our hair color. They will be our friends if we treat them well and in return we will receive the purest love that exists.
Thanks to this bond, we are able to improve the self-esteem of people who need it, feeling they are part of something important, feeling loved and accepted, both by the animals and by the therapists and volunteers.
The constant work with the horses, learning to understand their language and, with respect, getting to control them through therapeutic riding, makes them feel capable, and this brings benefits on an emotional level that directly translate into greater self-esteem in the majority of the cases.
We understand empathy as the ability to put ourselves in the place of the other person to understand them, not necessarily sharing their opinion or point of view. An empathic person is able to perceive the emotions of others and also understand them, even if it is not she who feels them.
Some of the advantages that working with empathy gives us is that it encourages prosocial behaviors, very necessary in progress from childhood, allowing the development of an adequate personality to maintain an optimal quality of life, avoiding, for example, behaviors or communication styles aggressive or introversion, among other things.
In our sessions, always through the intervention of the therapists, we work on empathy from different angles since equine therapy allows us not only to learn to empathize with other people (therapists, volunteers, other users …) but also with horses. We learn to read their emotions and understand how they can feel when faced with the different stimuli and events that occur in the therapies, and how we can act so that they are calm and feel good with us.
Empathizing with beings, a priori, so different from us, helps us to generalize this capacity to the people around us.
· RECOGNITION OF EMOTIONS
Being able to recognize different emotions (drawings, photographs, facial expressions …) and knowing how to classify them is a very important preliminary step to understanding them and being able to manage them correctly. Thanks to the extra motivation that the company of our horses gives us, this job becomes a game.
We must not forget that the tranquility and comfort that working in this way provides users (through games, in a very relaxed context, outdoors, with the horses, in many cases their best friends) drastically decontextualizes the therapy and the feeling of work and effort that could be felt in other conditions, so that the objectives are easier to meet and they feel more comfortable and less judged, which greatly facilitates emotional expression.
After this brief introduction on what emotional intelligence is and its relationship with equine therapy, we believe that the question we posed at the beginning can be answered: yes, we can improve our emotional intelligence thanks to equine therapy. Working with animals opens up a huge range of possibilities for professionals to explore the world of emotions and immerse ourselves in it in a fun and healthy way.