What is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy is a facilitated interaction between horses and human patients. It helps individuals with PTSD, anxiety, depression, communicative disabilities, physical disabilities, emotional struggles, relationship troubles, and more. Typically during an equine therapy session, a health professional guides their patient while they interact with the horse.
Horse Therapy for Mental Health
Therapy horses that assist with mental health sessions are trained to be calm in almost any situation. They provide a space for the participant to process feelings and express emotions. Humans are natural fixers. We want to solve a problem, provide a solution, and move forward.
Horses live in the present. They don’t try to fix or overcome; they just acknowledge what is and accept it. This is an incredibly powerful concept for someone who is working on their mental health. They can be depressed, anxious, or traumatized, and the horses won’t try to fix it. Their calm presence acknowledges the circumstance and says, “it’s okay, I’m still here with you” and knowing that is often incredibly freeing for people.
A horse has an incredible ability to pick up on human emotions and mirror them. When someone who is afraid approaches a horse, the horse may run away. When someone angry approaches a horse, the horse may become irritable and uncooperative. This mirror of emotions is an incredible teaching tool for mental health professionals. It gives the patient a visual of what they are experiencing and allows the practitioner to help their patients process their emotions and see the horse’s behavior change in the process.
Equine Therapy for Physical Health
Equine therapy is used for physical health benefits too. Horse’s rhythmic movements stimulate muscles and nerves in patients with physical disabilities or illnesses. Sometimes even light stretching or walking is not an option, but horseback riding is, thanks to specialized saddles and equipment.
A person’s body naturally moves with the horse when they ride. These movements are small, but they loosen tight muscles and stimulate nerves in a way that is less invasive than traditional physical therapy. Therapeutic horseback riding improves balance and strength and translates into the patient’s everyday life.
Equine Facilitated Sessions for Personal or Professional Development
While not a medical practice, Equine facilitated sessions for professional and personal development are popular and also under the umbrella of equine therapy. Team building retreats with equine sessions are common in the corporate world. The horses help teams improve their communication skills and work together as a team. These sessions are often done on the ground and can be as simple as leading a horse or asking it to move into a specific area without a lead rope.
Equine facilitated sessions for personal development help individuals learn to express their feelings, build confidence, and advocate for themselves. If you own a horse or regularly ride, you probably enjoy all these benefits without realizing it. You go to the barn after a bad day and walk away feeling much better. Your horse helped you subconsciously process everything that was going on, and provided a positive experience that got you out of your head.
Equine therapy provides these benefits in a controlled environment where a professional guides the session and helps the participant understand what is happening and why. From there, they can use what they learn in the real world to improve their quality of life.
If you want to try an equine therapy session or know someone who could benefit from it, find the closest equine therapist to you on our map. Enter your zip code into our search bar, click more filters, and select the “other” option. If you own an equine therapy business, make sure you add your listing to our map so people looking for equine therapy can find you when they need you.