Violin for Wellness

Violin, Horses & Challenges

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These are some questions people have:

“I know that horses have a powerful connection to people, but how does it work to add the violin?”

The addition of the violin provides a full sensory experience. It serves as a tool by way of aural and vibrational infusion, which triggers “ins”, or access points, for therapeutic treatment. Research shows music taps into the limbic system, affecting emotion, behaviour, motivation and even long-term memory. Physical and neurological changes take place, helping develop greater independence.

“So, give me an example.”

An example: a session may include an “aha” moment for a child who has never signed due to vision limitations. With hands-on from a therapist, she can understand what signing the word “more” will get her – a special song – and the cause and effect realization that she can turn on the music if she touches her fingers together. These are small steps to independence.
Another example: a boy with Down’s Syndrome likes to ignore his instructor and just be a boy – on a horse. Goals include learning to focus and follow through with commands but he just wants to – be a boy. But, he loves the violin! The violin is offered as the reward if he follows the commands, and he gets to ask for the song. Instant success!! Breakthrough!
What does he ask for? A cowboy song. Egads? Do I know one?

What kinds of changes do you notice?

Client changes are obvious, from behavioural shifts, cognitive development, muscle lengthening and strengthening, to noisier social engagement and lots of smiles. Also, receptivity to this double-dose input of horse and violin is extremely high, so not only the client is changed, but the families, volunteers and therapists themselves.



“It seems like this combination could help many diffent people.”

Clients with disabilities or others in need, such as with depression, grief and/or PTSD symptoms, gravitate naturally to the vibrations and expressiveness of the violin.

“What do the horses think about the violin?”

Interestingly, not only the clients are affected, but also the horses. One manifestation is that they become ultra-relaxed, with a low head position and profound licking and chewing. The other manifestation is increased gait. As more energy is created due to the rhythmic pulses from the live violin voice, the horse’s gait changes. It is important for this 1200 lb equine therapist to be happy, as forward motion, or impulsion, directly translates to greater mechanical reaction from the client. 

“What does it look like?” See the program in action below.

Filmed and edited by Michelle Doherty in June 2014 at Valley Therapeutic in Langley, BC.

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