Also referred to as Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy or simply Horse Therapy, Equine Therapy is a form of experiential therapy that incorporates interactions between horses and patients. It has long been recognized as an effective intervention for the treatment of various mental, psychological and emotional difficulties.
Equine therapy is often accompanied by a combination of other traditional therapies to help patients heal and overcome their trauma. Several of those who’ve undergone this unique type of therapy have shown marked mental and emotional benefits including:
1. Equine therapy increases self-confidence.
Nothing boosts your confidence as much as working with a large, powerful, 1000-pound mammal. Regular interaction with horses, grooming, feeding, instructing, etc. are all effective in boosting an individual’s confidence in their abilities. This, in turn, spills over to other aspects of the patients’ lives. After all, if you can overcome your fear and find the confidence to befriend, instruct and ride a horse, you can get the confidence to confront and work through other issues in your life e.g. substance abuse.
2. Equine therapy improves emotional awareness.
Horses are highly sensitive and intuitive creatures. They have an innate ability to recognize and mirror the behaviors and attitudes of the humans with whom they’re working. This gives individuals invaluable insight into their emotions and an awareness of how these same emotions affect those around them. Such perception allows equine therapy clients to identify and process any negative emotional or behavioral patterns with the aim of changing them for the better.
3. Equine therapy promotes better interpersonal relationships.
Going into equine therapy compels individuals to become part of a community of horse enthusiasts, especially if their therapy horses are sheltered at a ranch or barn. Whether they take part in group therapy sessions or just hang around after they are done, patients will usually mingle with others and bond over their mutual love for horses. This socialization forces them to leave their individual comfort zones and interact with others thus expanding their social circles.
4. Equine therapy develops a sense of responsibility and care for another creature.
Patients who go for equine therapy are usually wrapped up in their own issues and are sort of isolated from the rest of the world. For instance, depressed teens, veterans with PTSD or those living with disabilities often feel that others can’t relate to what they’re going through. However, horses require a lot of care, love and attention. They have to be exercised, fed, groomed and socialized. Taking care of these tasks can get anyone out of their own head and into the present moment, fostering a sense of responsibility as they meet the horse’s needs.
5. Equine therapy builds communication and problem-solving skills.
Horses respond to both verbal and non-verbal communication so those undergoing equine therapy have to pay careful attention to their tone of voice, body language, etc. around these animals. Additionally, they have to learn how to communicate with the horses to convey different instructions and commands. Sometimes, the therapy animal won’t respond, forcing the rider to use their problem-solving skills to come up with a solution.
As equine therapy increases in popularity, we will no doubt uncover other mental and emotional benefits of working and interacting with horses.