Wilderwood Equine Therapy and Rescue.
There’s a lot to that name. And, we’d like to take a moment to unpack it.
Wilderwood (waɪldərwʊd) comes from the name of our location, on Wildwood Lane. It is, therefore, pronounced wild-er-wood (not will-der-wood) as in a “wood that is wilder,” moreso than just ordinarily wild. It’s a play on words that captures not only a lighter side of us, one that enjoys word play and linguistic variance, but also reflects the deep love we have for this peaceful sanctuary we call our home.
Then there is the concept of Therapy and Rescue. What sort of therapy do we do? And what do we rescue? Of course, the word “equine” is prominent and our work naturally involves the magnificent horse. And yes, we do rescue horses – or, at least at this writing, one horse. Odie’s rescue story is outlined in other places, so we won’t repeat it here. What we will say is that whatever horse comes to Wilderwood is with us for life, and so our turnover is not very high.
We also see the word “rescue” as applying to people, too. All of us, no matter who we are, at some point in our lives will need some kind of help. For the very fortunate among us, this help may end after the helplessness of infancy. For many, the need for support is intermittent and fleeting, and yet for others it may last throughout a lifetime.
The precise support each of us needs depends on life events, circumstance, our personal history, physical and mental aptitude, ideals, beliefs, and hopes. Because of this, we believe that the best and most potent predictor of successful therapy is the degree of connection between the recipient’s needs and what a particular therapist can provide.
The needs of those who seek therapy is a mosaic – though it could also be seen as a frenetic maelstrom – that has been cultivated by and culminates in lived experiences tempered by individual personality and different (dis)abilities. Who is best to help with those needs? Who has the credentials, licensure, and qualifications? Perhaps the question is better posed to the recipient of the therapy who, faced with an array of choices, can weigh his or her needs with an educated understanding of what is being offered.
That brings us to the concept of “therapy.” This word is mired in a lot of ideological and cognitive weight. Put another way, there’s a lot of talk about “therapy” and who, what, and how is credentialed, licensed, qualified, or honored to provide it. In relation to equine therapy, there are those who claim it properly resides in the world of occupational, speech/language, or physical therapists, along with equine specialists, therapists, or teachers, medical practitioners such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and osteopaths, and other medical or mental health providers such as social workers, counselors, and clinicians.
We would say there’s a group that’s often left out of this list, and that is the horses themselves.
The truth is, it belongs to all of us. Those who perform therapy and enact a positive change in the recipient of that therapy, is by nature providing therapeutic benefit. The question becomes one of a person finding the best possible therapeutic environment for what he or she needs.
At Wilderwood, we have chosen to develop our therapeutic practices to best meet the needs of autistic adults. The qualifications of those who have developed the curriculum is grounded in multi-disciplinary theory and practice, including the fields of cognitive linguistics (itself a multi-disciplinary field blending psychology, philosophy, and linguistics); osteopathic medicine (particularly the biopsychosocial component of osteopathy); education (both andragogy and pedagogy); equine training and riding; psychology; philosophy; and – critically – autistic adults themselves.
Like any therapeutic intervention, our program is not for everyone. Despite our multi-disciplinary approach and the fact that Wilderwood is potentially open to anyone who wishes to apply, the recipient we have in mind is quite specific and focused: the two-thirds of autistic adults without intellectual disability who have been unheard and unassisted for years. This is their time and their place. The blending of philosophies of mind and body, along with the combined years of experience with teaching, medical, and equine practice has resulted in a program uniquely cast to offer therapy and rescue to those who wish to seek it from us.
B.A., M.A., Ph.D., M.A., (Clinical Mental Health Counseling, in-progress)