Horses and the Identity-Oriented Psychotrauma Theory

Woman riding horse with two dogs walking beside

Have you ever asked yourself: Who am I; Why am I the way that I am; What do I really want in life?

If so, then you have made a self-inquiry— turning your attention and curiosity inward, toward yourself and toward the truth of your nature. When we ask ourselves these questions, we are beginning a significant journey of exploration. This could mean exploring something within yourself, your relationships with friends or family, health, work or even a particular life decision.

Who we are as individuals, and how we live our lives relates to our childhood attachments— a series of developmental patterns that are highly influenced by parental figures. These are experiences that happen extremely early in life, and are responsible for shaping our minds and bodies. They can also be responsible for causing us to act in negative ways, such as being destructive and judgmental towards ourselves or other people. This behavior may be a direct result of experiencing trauma during our childhood years.


Trauma— an emotional response to a terrible event. These events include an accident, sexual assault or a natural disaster. Serious trauma experienced during childhood, as well as adolescence, has evolved into a major global concern. It is also a part of a continuing health and social problem. Studies have shown that up to 62% of women and 16% of men have been affected by serious trauma during childhood and adolescence.

How can we as a society get to the bottom of this issue, and help people heal from these traumatic experiences?

Identity Therapy

Identity-Oriented Psychotrauma Therapy (IoPT), or Identity Therapy, is a scientific and psychological method developed by Professor Franz Ruppert. It emerged directly from his theory of trauma, which is rooted in family constellations— an approach designed to reveal family or relationship dynamics that are unseen. Family constellations help to address, and heal any stressors that may adversely influence these relationships.

IoPT allows us to explore these stressors even further, as well as our sense of who we truly are. It helps to resolve any internal conflicts that may be affecting our behavior, sense of wholeness and our interactions with other people. This is achievable through focusing on our developmental experiences, which typically occur during a time when we have absolutely no memory: early childhood.

Psychological Splitting

Human beings face many challenges throughout life, even from the moment of conception. Unfortunately, some of these challenges involve experiences that may be physically and emotionally traumatic. A process referred to as psychological splitting helps us to manage any traumas that may happen very early in our lives. These experiences split-off, and are deep within our unconscious mind. This process is essential for supporting our survival.

These experiences are buried within us, but are present— quietly influencing our existence

We create different behaviors in order to keep traumatic experiences tightly locked away from the rest of the world. This method of coping ensures that these painful, split-off experiences do not come to the surface. These behavior patterns are known as our survival selves/strategies. The patterns manifest in our attempts to keep busy and distracted, identify with others, or with a specific country or nationality. Our survival selves/strategies push us further away from coming into contact with our unique, authentic being.

IoPT essentially offers an opportunity to face our own demons. It brings us into direct contact with these experiences, while helping to release them and reintegrate with our true identity. This process of reintegration allows us to become stronger individuals with a new sense of clarity.

Sentence of IntentionThree women hugging each other

IoPT sessions involve group work. Each individual in the group will begin with setting an intention or self-inquiry. This intention is completely based on the problem that they wish to explore. For example, a person’s sentence of intention could be wanting to live a happier life or to feel less anxious.

The person will write that sentence up on a board, and then ask other members of the group to represent each word. Every representative resonates or pays special attention to the sensations, thoughts and feelings that will begin to surface. These resonances serve as a reflection of the person’s sentence of intention. The thoughts and feelings of each representative will be shared. This creates a new direction for the group that will provide the person with further insight.

Supportive Healing with Horses

Horses have a powerful, healing effect on human beings. They are herd and prey animals— meaning that they are highly dependent upon their relationships within their herd. A horse will react only to the present moment, without any hidden agenda. In order to feel safe, they need our undivided attention. Those who have experienced serious trauma in relation to others have similar qualities to these prey animals. For example, other people may appear threatening or untrustworthy.

The use of horses has added an entirely different dimension to IoPT work. Along with the ability to heal humans, horses also assist in the process of integration. This is achieved through their presence, and response to energy that is either blocked, opened or moving. The horse will act as a helper to the IoPT facilitator by listening to the client’s intention, and reading their level of authenticity.

Yarcort Travels to the Emerald IsleWoman kneeling down in front of a horse

Yarcort’s CEO and founder, Gina Yarrish, traveled overseas this month to the lush green grassland of Ireland. The mission of this adventure was to connect with other Equine Service Providers in order to educate and expose more people to the power of the horse. During her trip, Gina was able to link up with Deirdre Kennedy— a specialist in Equine Facilitated Learning. Deirdre’s primary area of interest is maintaining the well-being of horses. Her overall aim is to improve the relationship between human and horse by educating those in the equine world to better understand the communication from horses.

Deirdre also facilitates a workshop on Equine-Assisted IoPT which offers participants an enriching experience. They will have exposure to the wonderful elements of nature, while interacting and learning from these majestic animals. She provides follow-up support, and assistance to those who wish to gain control over their own process by understanding. Visit Deirdre’s website  for more information about her work, and passion to help both human and horse.

Follow Gina’s journey around the world as she continues to spread the message that Equine Service Providers should be the first choice in helping people move past traumatic experiences. It’s only the beginning!


Author: Judy Conti

Editor: Crystal Lynn

Graphics: Courtesy of Dierdre Kennedy/edited by Casey Salvato.

2 comments on “Horses and the Identity-Oriented Psychotrauma Theory

  1. Caroline Penman on

    Oh excellent .. I hope you will visit when I have set up my barn in the Yorkshire Dales National Park working with my herd in the wonderful natural wilderness … I’d love to meet ????

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