Case study

Hearts for Heroes uses a variety of animal therapies to support our veterans – a “no talk” environment and the unconditional support of animals combine for program success.


Upon receiving the Equine Assisted Learning task, to illustrate something he would like to work on, John stated he would like to become “…more patient”.

He was invited into an enclosed arena with three unbridled horses. As John moved around the arena, he approached a black horse which proceeded to move quickly away from him. Giving chase, faster and faster, the black horse moved further and further away.

Heaving a sigh, John approached another blond horse. In the approach, John commented that the blond horse reminded him of Jim.

Within the EAGALA development model, we refer to the horse in the manner in which the individual refers to him or her. The blond horse, now called Jim, stood his ground.

John approached slowly and touched his neck. At a whisper, he said Jim and I were friends. John placed his hand on the mane of this horse and pulled the neck toward his body. Jim, unbending refused to move.

John then moved to the side of the horse and again pushed - using the flat palm of his hand. Jim, still unmoving, looked at John. John laughed at loud saying, “Jim was always stubborn”. John put his palm on the hip of the motionless horse. Letting out a deep sigh, John asked “…what should I do”.

EAGALA development solutions are client focused. The mental health specialist (MH) asked what was going on with he and “Jim” at that moment.

John explained he was sweating and feeling very impatient - the horse would not move. After several moments of silence, he chose a pool-noodle and wrapped it around the neck of the horse.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, John encouraged the blond horse to move forward. The horse did not move. With greater intensity in his voice, and pulling on the noodle, John encouraged movement again.

The horse, instead of going with John, pulled back, freeing his neck from the pool noodle - turning, and walking away. The MH said "…John, I noticed when you pulled, Jim moved backwards away from your body and then turned and walked to the corner." John explained this is how his patience feels - the harder he tries to maintain it, the less control he has with it.

The synopis of the session described above is an illustration of the no talk support and therapeutic responses we achieve in H4HUS equine programs. John will go home and reflect on his patience, and through the metaphors he experienced during the session, he will find the solutions within.

The next session would be dedicated to wherever John is in the process. It may or may not again be patience – it is whatever the client chooses.

Case study update in progress