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Equine-assisted therapy can provide an effective method of mental health counseling, family and anger-management therapy, and post-traumatic therapy, among many other benefits, according to Western New York social worker Jessica Scholze.

“Horses act as a mirror, providing direct, observable feedback about the interplay of our behavior in relationship with others,” said Scholze, a Daemen College graduate. “In this way, horses can motivate clients to engage in healthy behaviors.”

Equine-assisted therapy is an experiential approach, she said, delivering for clients what they bring to the session. Clients learn about themselves through their participation.

Sessions may include standard activities with horses such as grooming, or activities similar in nature to ropes-course work. Learning with the horses can also include games, journaling and art.

Such therapy is an alternative for veterans dealing with trauma-related issues, Scholze said.

Spruce Meadow Farm, at 10333 Keller Road in Clarence, will host a “Horses for Heroes” program on Friday, offering veterans past and present, law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders and their families a day of relaxation, horseback rides, music, food and other activities, free of charge. For more information, call 560-0845.

“The horse is the buffer, which allows individuals who are participating in the therapy activities to work through the animal, and not have to bare their soul while sitting in a therapist’s office,” Scholze said. “The horse’s response to the client can provide valuable insight into the client’s behavior, emotions and approach. By understanding how her behavior affects her horse, a client can begin to see how her behavior affects others.”