Horses as therapists

Foster said this type of equine therapy isn't widely accepted or known about in this part of the country, more popular in the western portion of the U.S. To let therapists, schools, counselors, coaches and others know that this service exists in Saratoga County, she's holding an Open Barn event called "Get your love on!" on Friday, Feb. 11, from noon to 3 p.m. where people can come see what it's all about. She'll have demonstrations, information and plenty of horse-attendee interaction.

"I'm interested in getting more therapists to work with and reach out to more kids," said Foster. "[The demo] is all about giving folks who attend a sense and more description of what this is, why it works and the actual experience of doing it."

'Choose me'

Horses choose the kids they want to help, said Foster, so she starts out with what she calls the "choose me game." She takes one child or a group into a big field with various horses running free. She situates the kids in the field, then waits to see who the horses gravitate toward.

"It's very visible when a horse is choosing. They'll come up and put their head right next to the person they want to work with, usually on their stomach. You definitely know when a horse chooses you," said Foster. "Most often what happens is they match up with someone they most resemble or their personalities best suits them."

Foster said she knows there are people who will doubt a horse consciously chooses a particular client for a reason. She has a few examples that illustrate, however, just how wrong those doubts are.

"I had one horse, an alpha, that was the lead horse I my heard so he was bossy when he needs to be and can be quite stubborn. He totally matched with this one girl who was just exactly those characteristics and it was a wonderful time to watch her and this horse interact as they realized that if they both dug their heels in and did not give, nothing would happen. Once they started to give and realize a relationship is about receiving and giving, they started working really well together," said Foster.

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