Equid-Nexus: An Equine Engaged Parts Work Psychotherapy Model
Building Relational Consciousness Through Intersubjectivity -
One Part at a Time
The next level for intensive trauma treatment; partnering with horses for healing attachment wounds
What is the Equid-Nexus model?
The model encourages curiosity about the client’s cognitions and beliefs, emotions and somatic experiences, images and memories, while functional dual awareness is paid both to the past (within the client) and the present (with Self and horse). The client and the horse co-create a relationship that provides a corrective experience.
Self-Led Facilitation means adopting curiosity to yield an openness from the heart and mind that melts away the impulses to analyze or interpret the client’s process. This condition allows for the transformative benefits to spontaneously occur for the humans and horses as they engage with each other. Engagement between the human and horse is the goal. The term “engagement” means that there is an understanding or agreement to be intentionally with another, and thus creating a space for intersubjectivity to occur.
The horses here at my ranch, Whispering White Horse Stables, do not just partner with me in facilitating equine-assisted psychotherapy; they are the transformative element on which everything builds. Their consent to engage with the client starts the process of relational connection and consciousness. The Oxford Dictionary includes “nexus” to mean “a connection or series of connections linking to or more things” and “the central and most important point or place”. “Equid” implies any mammal related to the horse family, such as zebras or donkeys.
Equid-Nexus therefore, in the context of EAP, means important connections within a family; internally and externally. The Equid-Nexus model maintains that connection with others is more authentic and secure when driven from the energy of Self. This felt sense of Self links clients to their bodies and allows them to feel connection through somatic experiences. Relationships fostered through Self-Energy eliminate the need for re-enactments as clients feel a sense of freedom to think, believe and act differently.
Through their engagement with the horse they have the opportunity to gain immediate feedback when connection is made through a part (with an outdated understanding of the system) versus from Self. We need all of our parts and they can come in handy in interactions. However, learning where reactions are coming from and becoming aware of unhealthy patterns is the golden ticket here. The process of increasing awareness and having enough space inside to make a choice of how to react is key.
Automatic reactions from a part are ripe therapeutic opportunities to get curious as to where this reaction comes from. Because connection instead of perfection is always the goal, we focus on “do-overs” and repairing attachment ruptures with clients and their horses. It also provides for more focused interventions.
Integration of Mind and Body, Corrective Experience with Self and Another
Fidelity to EMDR’s 8 Phases and three-pronged protocol is maintained while IFS interweaves and upgrades provide a safe gentle precision in identifying and targeting traumatic material.
Equine-Engaged IFS+EMDR is an inherently relational approach as clients are guided to increase functional dual awareness of the parts of themselves that are activated while engaging with the horse.
The 6F's and healing steps are interweaves and upgrades embedded in the 8 Phases. The IFS concept of the Self is the relational healing agent that fosters connection and regulation within the client as they process traumatic material.
Reprocessing with BLS occurs on the ground or on horseback while the horse provides feedback to deepen the experience for the client. The horse is a true partner and consenting participant during sessions. They are not used as a tool or a mirror, but a witness and hope merchant for the client as they heal within the engaged relationship.
Integrating Horses Into Healing
Jenn is a contributing author to this comprehensive all inclusive guide to equine-assisted services.
Chapter 8 features Equid-Nexus integrated with the Natural Lifemanship Model. This chapter includes case studies, resources and information on how to combine the models for trauma-focused equine engaged services.
Below are some reflections offered by Equid-Nexus Learners:
"A FABULOUS TRAINING AND TRAINER! Jenn has studiously gathered clinical interventions from IFS, EMDR, the Syzygy Institute and Natural Horsemanship to create an equine-facilitated therapy model. She demonstrated an in-depth understanding of how attachment injuries caused by abuse and/or neglect result in people feeling disconnected from Self and others, and how horses can facilitate the healing process. Throughout this training Jenn guided us in how to interweave evidenced-based practices as the client interacts/connects with the horse."
"I would recommend this training for anyone with an interest in learning more about the IFS model and how to use it. The added relationship that the horses bring to this work makes it a richer experience in my opinion. Jenn does a great job of presenting the information in both a didactic and an experiential way. The facility was lovely, the group was small, the material was excellent, and the horses were awesome. It was a great experience."
"I found this training very inspiring! I felt very welcomed and safe to ask questions here. I felt the level of students was a perfect number to be heard and seen. I felt it was a comfortable atmosphere to learn with healthy food options. Having the horses there was very beneficial. The way they were engaged in the training was professional and animal centered which made my heart feel good! The way Jen educated us "horse professionals" on how to include horses in EEP was non-demeaning and very balanced which has not been the case with some other trainings. I learned a great deal from this training and felt safe expressing when I didn't get a term/concept. Jen is very knowledgeable and taught us a lot of info in only 2 days. Kim was a great co-facilitator and had wonderful energy in leading the meditations. My clients have almost all benefited from "parts work" and I am grateful I took the opportunity to go far away from AZ and attend this training! It was well worth the trip and I would love to see a level 2. I also wanted to say this training is for anyone in the industry (teachers, coaches, doctors and therapists) as it is such a safe way to assess a client and help them to feel more grounded. I specialize in anxiety and autism but found this training to be incredibly helpful in my practice with my specialties. I will recommend it to anyone in the field I come across. I don't have any suggestions on changes as I was very happy with my experience. The weather was perfect and the horses were delighted to work with us!"
"I recently had the privilege of participating in the enlightening Equid-Nexus Two Day Workshop, an experience that has left an enduring mark on both my personal and professional journey. The workshop was helpful as it went beyond the usual realm of equine interaction, delving deep into the nuances of the equid-nexus model and the profound therapeutic potential it holds. The workshop introduced me to an invaluable lexicon of Internal Family Systems language, a powerful tool that will be helpful in my work with clients. This framework has given me the ability to navigate more effectively the labyrinth of human emotions and psyche, fostering a more profound and empathetic connection with those I guide on their healing journeys. I loved the idea taught by the instructor that the horses, with their intuitive wisdom, serve as hope merchants in the area of healing relational trauma. Central to the workshop was the exploration of building relational consciousness. We looked at the dance between parts and self and how those observations are helpful as clients deal with past traumas - allowing them to step into the present more fully. I am grateful for the insights gained, the tools acquired and the heartfelt connections made with both the horses and other attendees. I wholeheartedly recommend this workshop to anyone seeking to know more about the integration of the IFS model with equine engaged psychotherapy and learning."