Humans have been using horses for work, sport, war and fun for thousands of years. Many people know that horses have been helping people recover from physical injuries through therapeutic horseback riding. What many people don’t know is that horses are assisting in emotional therapy, by helping humans heal their minds.
Last year local photographer Christie Zepeda worked with Great Strides, a local riding center that facilitates emotional healing with horses. Her project focused on the human-horse connection, and how horses are active participants in the healing process. The first image above shows one way a horse will react, or “release” as Zepeda calls it, to demonstrate understanding with their human partner. Zepeda created a series of still images and a multimedia piece for the organization.
From the time I was 15, I had battled chronic, sometimes debilitating depression. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I learned I was in fact suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It was a round-about route of healing from psychotherapy and toxic anti-depressant cocktails to finally Yoga, nutrition, spirituality, and ultimately Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. It was the joint work I did with a counselor and a selection of horses that finally helped to mend my heart. Words simply couldn’t describe the healing that takes place in the space between human and horse and so I set out to accomplish this with my photography.
Images like the one above show how close Zepeda had to get to the horses and the people, both physically and emotionally. By gaining the trust of her equine and human subjects, Zepeda was able to capture the bond formed between partners. She says, “The unmanageable hypersensitivity that once plagued my world is now my photographic navigational tool. All the emotion surrounding me that I so deeply sense, triggers the release of my shutter. I need to know the world feels it too.”
More of Zepeda’s work can be seen on her website, www.christiezepeda.com.