Horses have long offered therapeutic support. Ancient Greek literature mentions the use of horses for therapeutic riding as early as 460 BC. In 1960, this experiential therapy was introduced to North America with the official formation of the Community Association of Riding of the Disabled.
Many clients who have had the pleasure of experiencing equine therapy agree that there are so many lessons you can learn from these beautiful, gentle, and patient animals. Administered under the direction of a mental health professional, equine therapy offers many benefits. Here’s what this therapy can do for you.
Equine therapy, also known as equestrian therapy or horse therapy, involves interaction with horses as a form of mental health treatment. Horses have a unique sensitivity to people’s feelings. They can often sense your emotional state, allowing these majestic creatures to act as a sort of feedback. They also have a calming effect, despite the size of these gentle, empathetic giants.
This therapy is designed for individuals of all ages and can help treat a wide range of mental health conditions. It is typically offered in conjunction with other forms of therapy to increase success rates.
Horses offer unique benefits during the treatment of mental health conditions. They are non-judgmental and unbiased, they mirror human behavior and emotion, and are a great metaphor for actual life, helping individuals better understand coping mechanisms.
One of the core benefits of equine therapy is its ability to address so many conditions, including everything from depression and anxiety to substance abuse issues and eating disorders.
Research shows that equine therapy can improve balance, quality of life, well-being, spasticity, self-esteem, self-efficacy, pleasure, and a sense of accomplishment.
Equine therapy can also help you build:
-Social and communication skills
-Trust and empathy
Whether you wish to overcome your fears, set healthy boundaries, develop stronger interpersonal skills, or better identify and cope with your feelings, horses can support you along your journey.
Based on the goals of equine therapy, this treatment involves more than simply riding horses. In some sessions, individuals may not even touch horses. When building trust, a therapist may ask their client to complete various tasks, such as leading the horse to a designated area or putting a halter on the horse.
Depending on what condition you treat and your openness to this treatment, your experience will be unique to you and your recovery process.
For example, those who prefer to stay on the ground can interact with horses through activities such as petting, feeding, and grooming. Others prefer a more specific goal-oriented approach, and may even work towards vaulting over small obstacles.
There are several types of equine-assisted therapy, which target various goals.
-Equine-assisted psychotherapy — Offering an alternative to traditional talk therapy, equine-assisted psychotherapy is used to counsel individuals, as well as groups and families. The goal is to promote positive physical and mental health, focusing on emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioral therapy methods.
-Equine-assisted learning therapy — The goal here is to develop a heightened sense of awareness, particularly with oneself. Focusing on education and personal development, you can learn how to work with such a large animal while learning how non-verbal communication affects others.
-Hippotherapy — This form of therapy focuses more on your physical well-being and involves a physiotherapist or occupational therapist.
If you or your loved one need mental health or addiction treatment, Corner Canyon offers the most effective and innovative treatment programs, including a range of recreational therapy options.
Learn more about these therapies, including our adventure, equine, and meditation programs.