Third Stage The Middle Phase Of Group Processes

The riding process entered a "middle phase" in group process, where greater independence developed regarding the treatment of the horse and the interaction between and among the group members. In addition, learning new tasks and skills did not create anxiety regarding the potential responses of the others, and there was greater support among group members, through offering of advice based on experience.

Not always having the same horse enabled group members to experience riding horses with different personality characteristics. This enabled group members to have additional emotional and experiential experiences.

This stage was characterized by deeper personal and intimate interactions. Parallel to the confidence felt with the horses, group members also felt more comfortable toward one another, thus permitting greater risk taking with the possibility of helping one another.

An example of this was the sharing by one of the group members that she was suffering from cancer. This occurred shortly after the beginning of the technical aspects of the group. The issue arose around the strong somatic feelings she experienced during her "meeting" with the body of the horse. She felt her body responding strongly, which was in total contrast to her not experiencing her body during the initial course of her illness. The group was surprised by this new information, but was able to provide support, containment, and understanding.


This stage was the preparation for termination. The group planned (decision making) a field trip in order to provide a proper finish to the riding experience, which would permit them to reflect on the group process in both the fields of riding and of inter- and intra personal relationships.


Some group members terminated by announcing that they intended to continue to take riding lessons. Others found difficulty in ending the process. One person said that she could not participate in the final meeting on the pretext of family commitments. However, after clarification and understanding of her difficulties, she did come to the final meeting.

Working with the horses enabled the group to relate to deep emotional issues that came out of the interface between body and soul. The group process developed from the stage of familiarization, through that of intimacy, to that of terminating. During the course of the group work the group members underwent personal experiences and learned about patterns of interpersonal systems, and also addressed intrapersonal issues.


The horse is an animal that is sensitive to others, and is a herd animal. These two elements were successfully utilized during work on the intensification of self-awareness regarding intrapersonal experiences that influence interpersonal relations. This method of working is suitable for all group process activities, with teenagers and with adults who are not necessarily professional therapists, but who wish to increase their personal awareness.

This type of group experience is contraindicated for participants who have severe psychological disturbances, as working with and around animals of this size requires a certain degree of awareness and the ability to communicate effectively both on a verbal and nonverbal level.


Cohen, T. & Lifshitz, S. (2005). "A Horse-Riding Group as Potential Space."

Mikbatz: Israel Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 10, 83-99. Bion, W.R., (1992). Experiences in Groups. Tel Aviv: Dvir. Morris, D. (1991). Horses and People. Tel Aviv: Sifrial Ma'ariv. Yalom, I. D. (1985). The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (Third edition). New York: Basic Books.

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