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5 Ways Equine-Assisted Therapy Can Work For You

Mother and daughter in a field playing with a horse

There are some issues in life that are just hard to put into words. Some may feel stressed, worn down, and desperate about certain life issues. Yet these may be hard to verbalize and process on their own.

When words fail to bring us emotional catharsis, there is another way to find peace while processing the pain. Animals help people go through and feel certain emotions even without verbally talking to each other.

Some find it by simply sharing some time with their pets. For others, comfort may come from equine assisted therapy.

What is Equine-Assisted Therapy?

Equine-assisted therapy can be any form of activity that entails the interaction between a horse and a human. One crucial aspect of this experience is that a medical professional oversees the entire activity. This sets apart equine-assisted therapy from regular clubs or training sessions with horses. You can tap a medical professional such as a psychologist or a physical therapist, depending on your needs. 

Horses can mirror the emotions that humans have. They can become a sounding board for people to realize their current feelings. Horses can also respond to the emotion, to put it in the spotlight so that the individual can process the emotions, especially if they are hard to verbalize or understand.

The Horse-Human Relationship: Riding through Issues in Life

Because of their sensitivity to others, horses can sense changes within a person. Thus, they can sense when one’s emotional state is high or low, or whether they are experiencing depression or anxiety. 

Best of all, when a person is experiencing certain issues, feelings of judgment may stop one from truly going through the process of healing. For teens and young adults, this feels especially pronounced, since a lot of those who suffer from mental health conditions may feel judged by their peers and even family.

What separates equine-assisted therapy from these experiences is the unconditional love and companionship that horses show towards a person. This creates an open and safe space for individuals to let out their emotions.

Who Benefits From It?

Almost anyone can go through equine-assisted psychotherapy and enjoy its benefits. It can even be used as either an individual counseling method or a group counseling experience, depending on the type of persons who will undergo the treatment.

Children and teens may not only find horses as a therapeutic partner to process any grief, anxiety, or trauma. They may also be able to develop skills like assertiveness and trust in the non-threatening environment.

What’s important to note is that equine-assisted therapy needs to work within the context of a full treatment experience.

Benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy

Wondering if equine-assisted therapy is something for you? This therapeutic experience actually holds a lot of benefits for everyone. Soothing the soul and learning to ride are just the tip of the iceberg for all the good things you can learn and earn from the ride.

Physical Exercise and Awareness

Facing horses may already be a challenging experience for some, because of their size and majestic nature. Riding a horse may pose a different kind of challenge, but one that hones one’s body and mind.

Equine-assisted therapy may encourage the use of different muscles. You have to work with the horse, because riding one entails focus and strength just like in other sports. In fact, you need to find your balance and adapt to the movements of the horse.

Physical therapy using this technique can exercise joint mobility. It can also strengthen the muscles in the calves, arms, and abdomen. When you are tasked to care for the animal, this can also be helpful exercise and a relaxing activity in one.

Furthermore, equine-assisted therapy can also increase attention span and improve concentration. This provides a unique approach for individuals suffering from ADHD.

Increase Confidence

There may be nothing more majestic than riding a horse that you have a connection with. While this image alone already contributes to your confidence, mastering the skills to ride and tame a horse can be a booster. Individuals who feel that they have not achieved a lot can feel confident when they master skills in horse-riding.

Part of this is the communication skills that one needs to hone when learning how to ride. Communicating with a horse can be a challenge because of nonverbals. Yet when one finally gets the groove, it shows a more refined way of communicating with the horse using nonverbals. This will be useful in other aspects of one’s life.

Learning to Go with the Flow

Not being in control may seem scary at first, but with practice and the right environment, this can become a very valuable lesson learned. Equine-assisted therapy teaches individuals to go beyond trust, because they learn how to negotiate with their equine companion. Part of the experience also means caring for the horse, and this puts responsibility on a whole new level.

There is a thin line between surrendering completely and understanding the process of vulnerability. By knowing this thin line and applying it to the therapeutic scenario, one learns important valuable lessons which they can hopefully apply in the long run.

Processing the Difficult Emotions

Sometimes, when faced with what society deems to be negative emotions—sadness, anger, frustration, depression—most people tend to bottle them up instead. What is accepted by the public is not necessarily great for others. When horses step into the therapy experience, they introduce a new channel to identify these feelings.

It may be non-descript and subtle, but they can help both the individual and the therapist to steer the therapy into a more concrete territory.

Building Trust and Openness

Vulnerability is an important aspect of the healing process. Yet for most people, it is hard to allow the self to become open and vulnerable. It’s the same as being stripped naked and having no protection from potential danger.

When interacting with horses, people can try opening themselves without words. A horse’s sensitivity can work wonders. They not only sense a person’s vulnerability, but they also respond to whatever feelings they may let out. 

This can then be redirected to more concrete ways of processing. Thus, it is crucial to integrate equine-assisted therapy within the framework of a holistic therapeutic experience. 

Equine-assisted therapy may not seem to be for everyone, but it’s an experience that everyone can learn something from. These therapies and physical exercise can go a long way towards teaching a person a thing or two about life.

46 thoughts on “5 Ways Equine-Assisted Therapy Can Work For You

  1. This is great info!

  2. Thank you for the tips, very helpful

  3. this is good theraphy!

  4. Didnt realise there were so many benefits – great insight – will be utilising these

  5. Good job. Very useful and necessary this information.

  6. Once again a really well written informative piece. One of the times I went on vacation to the Caribbean island of Tobago I discovered a tour operator whose emphasis was on healing… mainly for the horses but those with disabilities were encouraged to visit even if they didn’t ride. I understood there were therapeutic reasons but now I understand it better.

  7. This is an interesting article and has piqued my curiosity on the subject. I will have to research it in more depth. Thank you for raising awareness of the benefits of equine-assisted therapy.

  8. Caring for a horse is caring for yourself.

  9. Growing up with horses, this cannot be understated, let the bond between human and horse continue to change the world, incredible article.

  10. Truly a wonderful information to understand horse with easy and clear information. Thank you

  11. This sounds especially good for children and adults with a variety of challenges, both physiological and emotional.

  12. the old country days of old are gone

  13. I agree, there is just something about animals (whether horses, dogs, cats, etc) that is good for the soul on humans

  14. very good

  15. Horses are magnificent animals who seem to be able to soothe by their just being
    I love that horses are non-judgmental and can give another way of seeing

  16. I think equine assisted therapy for teens and those dealing with mental health challenges is an excellent option. Animals are very sensitive to emotions and many people would rather interact with an animal than another person

  17. I agree. Bonding with a horse is good therapy for you and the horse!

  18. It’s amazing to see how powerful of an effect the relationship between a human and an animal has. Amazing!

  19. Very useful information.

  20. This is SO good! Especially the part about learning to go with the flow!!!

  21. Horses are so intuitive! Sounds like a great way to process things you’re having trouble verbalizing!

  22. Love the helpful and very interesting information.

  23. Good article

  24. always loved horses

  25. Very interesting read.

  26. I have never heard of Equine-Assisted Therapy. Interesting to read.

  27. horses are so rewarding!

  28. Yes ! Have studied this at uni, so many benefits

  29. nice love it

  30. Unconditional love is something everyone needs.

  31. I’m not surprised that horses (and donkeys and other equids as well I imagine) make great companions for these sorts of therapies. They’re extremely good at reading their environment and in particular body langage of other animals, including humans.

    Given they’re quite intelligent and emotional creatures, they’re probably very attuned to the emotional states of the people around them at all times.
    I’ve read recently about a horse (I think he was a gelding, seems a bad idea to bring a stallion into a cramped space) who likes to visit patients in hospitals, and chooses rooms to visit on his own; his handler just guides him and keeps him calm. I imagine he picks based on emotional state and smell, as a large amount of species can smell illness on the breath and he often picks terminal patients.

  32. Great therapy, brilliant advice thank you

  33. This helps so much.. Thanks for this..

  34. horses are great

  35. Good Article

  36. I can definitely see how horses and riding could benefit anyone’s health and mental wellbeing

  37. love horses and this great information

  38. I have heard of this therapy and all of the great benefits. Thank you for the information!

  39. Great information. Thanks for sharing

  40. This sounds wonderful and would be great for people like myself with anxiety

  41. Such a true an informative article about horses and humans!

  42. This information about equine assisted therapy is very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  43. Just the act of riding a horse is so relaxing. I can see how it would be especially helpful for anxiety.

  44. Good info

  45. My son is autistic and I cant even begin to tell you how much equine therapy has helped him ! It’s been amazing to watch the bond !

  46. This is 100% true my stepdaughter has yes HAD anxiety so bad she is such an animal lover she got 5 horses and yes her spending everyday (a lot of time) learning about them her anxiety has been gone for 13 mths!she stayed positive,strong and fixed herself

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