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      Domestic violence victims find solace in equine therapy

      Equine therapy is being used to help rehabilitate families who are recovering from traumatic events right here in Amarillo.

      Family Support Services and Horse Play at Mesquite Ranch are using equine therapy to help people deal with the legacy of their past crises, and restore their confidence in the future.

      Equine therapy, or therapy that incorporates the use of horses, is being actively used by Family Support Services to help victims of domestic violence recover from their trauma. Family support services has counselors on staff who are present during the therapy and are able to follow up.

      ??What??s great about this is, it??s a relatively new kind of therapy; it??s probably been around for about twenty years and it??s been here a long time, and we??re just trying to get the word out that this is a wonderful way to work with traumatized people,?? said Molly Rafferty of Family Support Services of Amarillo.

      Clients are given time to build a relationship with the horse. A group of families affected by domestic violence began their afternoon by bonding with the horses through a grooming exercise. Subsequently, the participants engage in a series of activities that are designed to bring out certain issues. Later, the clients share their feelings about their experience with the horse in a follow up that is sometimes in a group therapy environment.

      Frank Foster, the Owner of Mesquite Ranch, said that the trauma that these people have endured means that they??ve lost confidence in themselves and the world around them. The equine therapy helps restore trust and self-worth. The participants interact with the horses in a way that mimics real world interaction.

      The horses are very much like people in that they have the same range of emotions, the same relationships, and they have a tendency to mirror the person working with them, and so a lot of times a person can see what they??re doing that??s not effective in their lives by seeing the horse react to that,?? said Frank Foster, who is also a counselor that coordinates the equine therapy sessions. ??This helps reestablish positive boundaries and work with dealing with self-esteem issues. A lot of them have lost their confidence, in themselves and their personal value. ??

      The goal of these exercises is to have people become more aware of their own feelings. Horse Play at Mesquite Ranch has been doing equine therapy for over 10 years and has served nearly a thousand clients in the Amarillo area.