The Positives of Equine Therapy

When the word therapy comes to mind, we typically think about talking to someone about their issues or having physical therapy to help heal injuries. In fact, there are more than a hundred different types of therapy. One that is not as well known is equine therapy. Equine therapy helps people with addiction and disorders. This type of therapy can help in several different ways by helping the patient gain confidence, learning to problem solve, gaining assertiveness, control of impulse, and responsibility.

As anyone who rides a horse knows, there is no stronger bond than the one between a rider and the horse. Therefore equine therapy can teach the patient to learn to trust and build a healthy relationship with the horse. Being around a horse can give one a sense of peace and relaxation. Around horses one must be quiet not to startle or spook a horse; making it very peaceful Horses do like to be spoken to, so they are great to talk to when needed. It may seem funny to be talking to an animal that can not understand what you are saying, but in a way, they can understand how their rider is feeling. In the hit TV show Heartland that is based on an equine rehabilitation center; Amy Fleming is the horse expert. After the death of her mother, she becomes very depressed and decides she doesn’t want to work with horses anymore. After she goes back to the barn, she connects with a horse which brings her out of her depression and sparks a passion in her. Horses have the capability of helping people emotionally and mentally.

Horses are amazing, quick learning animals hence why they are great to work with in therapy. In sessions of equine therapy patients do several trust-building activities such as learning how to groom their horse, including picking up their hooves and cleaning them out. The patients also get to observe horse behavior and the horses herd dynamics and relate it to their own life. Horses are quick to build a bond with people and associate them with members of their herd, therefore, making them domesticated. Another issue horses are known for helping is someone who battles addiction.

People with addiction have learned that feelings are painful and often try to avoid them with this “way out” by turning to drugs. Horses are wonderful at detecting emotions as stated above and act out the way someone is feeling. For example, a person who is feeling anxious or scared of the horse and the horse echoes this message back which can make the patient more aware of their feelings and their effects. They have a great way of sensing what is going on in someone’s life and they try to help them.

Horses are large animals and can seem scary, but it is all about trusting them. Even if they are larger, it shows the patient that they can trust the horse to listen to them. This can make someone a more open trusting person but it can also help them set boundaries. Horses are a smart animal, sometimes though they can be known as bossy. The horse being bossy has the potential to teach a patient how to set boundaries for the horse, basically telling them what is right and what is wrong. These animals can also be like children who will poke and prod at every end to figure out what is allowed and what is not.

A part of the session, clients or patients gets to ride. Horses have an item in their mouth called a bit that can signal directions as to which direction to go. As well as tapping their sides gently with the heel tells them to move forward and change speeds. This teaches the client to communicate their intentions with the horse, this can build trust and better communication.

Horses work their way into our hearts and change our life. For some they are just a friend and for some they impact a person’s life so much that they revolve their life around them. Nelly Jacob’s was a 87 year old woman who had rode horses all her life. She did shows, won ribbons, she had a bond with horses. At 51 she showed signs of Parkinson’s disease. Eventually she was wheelchair bound but all she wanted to do was ride a horse one last time. With some help from supporters she was able to do that. The smile she had, was one that her family hadn’t seen in awhile. The influence horses have on our lives are unimaginable.

What I want you to get out of this article and what most people realize from sessions of equine therapy, are horses and humans have a lot in common. Some horses have dark past just as we do, but with work they can become great horses. There are many lessons taught in this kind of therapy, but they all seem to tie together to lead to a better, healthy, trusting life. It helps to see the light at the end of the long tunnel.

-Kelcie Bousman

Writer for Everything Agriculture

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