The Horses 4 Hope team are working with international specialists to bring the first equine-assisted drug and alcohol recovery program to South Africa.
The first of its kind in South Africa, Equ-Us™ is an equine-assisted program with therapeutic benefits, that uses a combination of Monty Roberts’ ground-breaking Join-Up® techniques and globally acclaimed motivational methods, to help those harmfully involved with drugs and/or alcohol to resolve ambivalence about behaviour change.
How Equ-Us Helps
Join-Up is a non-violent training system designed by Monty Roberts, world-renowned horseman and best-selling author of The Man Who Listens to Horses.
Convinced there must be a more humane and effective system to train horses, Monty Roberts created Join-Up, a consistent set of principles based on the horse’s inherent body language and herd-behaviour. The result of Join-Up is a willing partnership based on mutual respect and trust.
Monty Roberts’ non-violent approaches to working with horses and people have reached around the globe, with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England awarding him with the award of Membership in The Royal Victorian Order, as well as becoming patron of his non-profit, Join-Up International in 2012. Other awards include the ASPCA Founders award, the MSPCA George T. Angell Humanitarian Award and FEI’s Man of the Year.
Monty Roberts ground-breaking work with Veterans and other first responders who have post-traumatic stress injuries (called Horses Sense & Healing) allows participants to experience healing in a profound and impactful way, surrounded by others like them. The program is currently in science trials to identify why it is so successful in helping participants and their significant others find their resilience and begin a healing process.
And similarly, our Equ-Us workshops connect participants with horses to help them better understand themselves and how they interact with, and perceive, the world around them.
Equine-assisted programs have been proven to be successful with those harmfully involved with drugs and/or alcohol as it offers them the following:
- Immediate feedback: because horses can sense a person’s feelings and respond accordingly, they can serve as a mirror that the person can use to see and understand feelings they may not be aware of.
- Opportunities for learning: the person can use his/her interactions with the horses to evaluate and modify the ways they interact with people.
- Opportunities for trust-building: a person who feels uncomfortable talking in a traditional therapy setting, or who hasn’t developed a trusting relationship with their therapist, often finds equine therapy to be a safe environment where they can open up and develop trust, both between themselves and the horses and, later on, with their therapist.
- Healthy relationships: horses offer the person a non-judging relationship, which can help a person struggling with the negative relationship consequences from their addiction to rebuild their confidence without fear of criticism.
Why Equ-Us Works
Behaviour management is often a key component in traditional drug and alcohol treatment plans. Both alcohol and drug addiction are frequently accompanied by aggressive or violent tendencies or behaviours. These often end up endangering the individual, as well as his or her loved ones. Whereas in our Equ-us workshops, participants learn to communicate with the horses in a non-violent, non-coercive manner, and have the opportunity to explore how the animals react to their different moods, vocal tones, and body language.
This “feedback” from the horses helps them distinguish between hurtful or harmful behaviours, and acceptable ways of asserting themselves. And provides the perfect opportunity for lessons on the importance of trust and respect in a relationship, which are an important part of the therapeutic process.
Working with horses in our programs also helps boost participants’ sense of confidence and self-worth. As they establish a relationship with the horses around them, it allows them to gain the horse’s trust and unconditional love. For many, this is a very new experience – one that can be powerfully affirming. And participants often feel an incredible sense of accomplishment after their equine experience.
This supportive environment also helps our participants recognize and overcome some of the psychological and emotional barriers that have prevented them from confronting the underlying issues that have contributed to their unhealthy behaviours and dependence on drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
By working in partnership with government and non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres, our Equ-Us program will help those who are actively seeking to change their destructive behaviour patterns and continue in a positive direction while receiving the support they need to overcome the inevitable obstacles they’ll encounter on their path to recovery.
Why is Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Important?
- Research indicates that social costs of alcohol related trauma and accidents in South Africa far exceed those of most other countries. And that intoxication is a major factor in our alarmingly high rate of road accidents. According to the South African Revenue Service the known direct cost of drug abuse in 2005 was roughly R 101,000 million ($7 million).
- The social cost of illicit drug use was calculated using international data and is approximately R 136,380 million annually ($10 million).
The relationship between alcohol and illegal drugs, crime, and violence is both direct and complex. In 2007 in South Africa, more than 47% of victims of homicide tested positively for alcohol at the time of death. Alcohol makes people vulnerable to crime.
Worldwide, alcohol is now the leading cause of death in men under age 50, and one-third of all homicides are committed by people who are under its influence.
With the 2018 Global Peace Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) showing that South Africa is one of the most violent and dangerous places on earth, our society, as a whole, has to take a stand against violence. When calculating the cost of violence, South Africa ranks as the 15th most costly in the world, with costs taking up 24% of GDP, totalling $175.2 billion (R2,595 billion) or $3,052 (R 45,200) per capita (in PPP terms).
With the combined cost of drug & alcohol abuse, and the cost of violence in South Africa, much of it drug- and alcohol-related, it is clear that there is a high need for effective treatment programs. The lessons learned in an equine-assisted program persist long after the formal sessions are complete. One study found improvements made during the program persisted at the six-month follow-up date. The results from other, similar studies, have shown it’s clear equine-assisted programs are an effective way to reach people harmfully involved with drugs and alcohol, and help them build the skills they need to succeed in their recovery. And by utilizing Equ-Us, our groundbreaking program, we can make a lasting difference in our society.