What Are the Benefits of Equine Therapy for Mental Health Issues?

People have wanted to get close to horses even since they first laid eyes on this majestic creature. Riding horses can be exhilarating, but the benefits can go even further. That’s why many mental health professionals recommend the benefits of equine therapy.
What Are the Benefits of Equine Therapy for Mental Health Issues?

Last update: 31 March, 2022

Animals and people are often able to form close bonds with one another. This is usually accomplished through a correct relationship between the owner and the pet. Although this is the most prevalent sort of relationship between animals and humans, trust can also be built in therapeutic contexts.

Animals can aid in mental healing when used in therapy. Equine therapy, which horses are used in, is a very popular type of therapy.

Horses are known to be gentle and affectionate animals. They convey a sense of peace to people who are battling with mental health issues. Patients will build a bond with these horses while riding them and looking after them.

In this article, we’ll discuss what equine therapy is, and how it works. We’ll first look at how it originated as well as what its benefits are.

Equine therapy.

What is equine therapy?

People have wanted to get close to horses even since man first laid eyes on this majestic creature. Riding horses can be exhilarating, but the benefits can go even further. That’s why many mental health professionals recommend the benefits of equine therapy.

“There are striking similarities between horses and people,” says Dede Beasley, M.Ed., LPC, an equine therapist at The Ranch, who grew up riding horses.

Equine therapy, also known as Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT), is a treatment that uses equine activities and/or an equine environment to help people with ADD, Anxiety, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Dementia, Depression, Developmental Delay, Genetic Syndromes (such as Down Syndrome), traumatic brain injuries, behavioral issues, abuse issues, and a variety of other mental health issues.

Horses are used in the therapeutic process in equine-assisted psychotherapy. While being supervised by a mental health professional, people participate in activities such as grooming, feeding, and walking with the horse.

This type of treatment aims to assist people in developing skills like emotional management, self-confidence, and responsibility. It encourages people to take a fresh look at themselves and the world around them. With the help of horse therapy, people who have struggled to make progress or fulfill their treatment goals have made considerable progress with this therapy.

Many of the advantages of equine therapy have been proven via research. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate, relieves tension, and alleviates anxiety and depression symptoms.

Equine therapy is also beneficial to people who are suffering from addictions or mental illnesses. Horses are better at teaching a variety of life skills than humans are. This is the main advantage of employing equine therapy with those who are suffering from mental illness or addiction.

A history of equine therapy

Since the time of the ancient Greeks, horses have been employed for medicinal purposes. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” was a Greek physician who wrote about the medicinal advantages  of horseback riding.

During the 1950s and 1960s, riding became more popular as a therapeutic method. The North American Riding for Handicapped Association, subsequently known as the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International, was founded in 1969.

How it works

Equine therapy can include more than just horseback riding. A client may not even touch the horse during some of the sessions. Often, the therapist in charge of the session will assign tasks to the client, such as bringing the horse to a specific location or putting a halter on the horse.

The client will accomplish the task to the best of their abilities before discussing the thought process, concepts, and problem-solving techniques they used to do it. When you talk to the client about what they’re doing at any given time, you can help them develop their language abilities.

Listening to the instructor improves a person’s capacity to follow directions, ask questions, and so on. Not only is there communication between the handler and the instructor, but there’s also communication between the handler and the instructor.

The benefits of equine therapy

Horses have special characteristics that have made them a top choice for animal-assisted therapies, despite the fact that a number of animals can be employed in the psychotherapeutic process. Horses add many distinctive features to the therapy process, according to anxiety expert Dr. Robin Zasio.

An American quarter horse

It’s fairly usual for patients to notice changes after a few equine therapy sessions. They may develop a better understanding of their surroundings and be able to cope with negative emotions more easily. Equine therapy has numerous advantages.

Horses are also enormous and powerful, and they have the capacity to help individuals conquer their fears and gain confidence that they can apply in real-life circumstances. They can also help individuals relax because they’re objective and nonjudgmental, responding simply to people’s intentions and actions.

Furthermore, they’re sociable creatures with personalities of their own, and they’re most likely to interact when people are engaged and working to develop a relationship with them.

Horses have a remarkable ability to detect and respond to emotions. The horse may become recalcitrant if you’re angry or aggressive. If you’re nervous, the horse may become nervous as well.

However, it’s more likely to respond in kind when treated by someone who is open and relaxed. Observing the horse’s reaction can help individuals become more self-aware and see themselves in a more realistic light.

Many people who suffer from addictions and mental illnesses are emotionally stunted. They could have a hard time connecting with others or becoming close to them. Despite this, they’re able to form strong ties with horses.

People who work with horses learn to recognize their own patterns of social interaction. Horses may not be able to communicate verbally, but they’re amazing communicators. Understanding horse behavior can help individuals understand how their actions affect others.

A horse.

A metaphor for life

The ability of a therapist to use the horse as a metaphor for other situations aids in the application of equine therapy to real-world issues.

“One child was having tremendous difficulty discussing how they felt about an anticipated move to another state”, said one therapist who decided to use a horse as a metaphor to assist the patient work out challenges in their own lives.

She was able to use numerous examples in how a horse that was being sold was helped to feel more at ease in its new surroundings.” The child was able to better understand and cope with her own move by using the horse as a metaphor.

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