Grad Student Therapists

Florida Cracker horses read social cues so well that they are able to provide a unique training experience for graduate counseling or clinical psychology students in which the students hone their psychotherapy skills by practicing non-verbal communication using a Cracker horse as a client. The horses are able to provide hands-on experience—the most powerful learning tool. The feedback to the student therapist comes directly from the “client,” in that the effectiveness of the student’s communication is reflected in the direct reactions and responses of the horse.

Florida Cracker horses are uniquely qualified for the role of “client,” as this special breed has retained a strong element of "survival skills,” making these Crackers supremely sensitive to the subtleties of human behavior.Moreover, they are “cautiously curious,” much like many psychotherapy clients themselves.

In this video clip, a student therapist explains equine-assisted learning and shares her perspective after completing a workshop and engaging in a particularly challenging individual session with two Florida Cracker horses.These two talented horses demonstrate a broad spectrum of responses to this student therapist, showing a range of reactions to the student’s non-verbal interactions, including compliance, resistance, caution, connectivity, and finally compassion.