What are the Benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy? How Can It Help You?

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What Is Equine Therapy?

Horse-Assisted Psychotherapy integrates horses into the therapeutic process for relaxation and
distraction. People who engage in Equine-Assisted Therapy Activities like grooming, feeding,
and caring for horses under the care of mental health professionals often experience improvements in emotional regulation. This therapy’s goal includes developing emotional control, confidence, and responsibility. It may be difficult for some people to have a horse participate in their therapy sessions because they’re intimidated by the size and weight of these animals. Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT) has become increasingly popular because of its experiential approach and some emerging evidence of its effectiveness.

History of the Benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy?

Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, horses have been used for therapeutic purposes. The
ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates was considered the father of medicine. He described the benefits and methods of using horses for treating diseases. As riding grew in popularity as a therapy tool during the past few decades, so did its use for therapeutic purposes. PATH International was founded in 1969 by people who wanted to create an association where professionals could share their knowledge and expertise regarding therapeutic horseback riding programs.

Who Is Equine-Assisted Therapy For?

The many benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy can be used for various patients and in different environments. Horses can help people who suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, phobias, OCD, eating disorders, addiction, grief, and loss. Equine-assisted Therapy is often not the only type of treatment; however, it may sometimes complement more traditional forms of treatment. In contrast to traditional talk therapies, which focus primarily on verbal communication, experiential activities such as outdoor walks with horses offer patients opportunities for using their senses to learn and process through emotional challenges.

Benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy

So What Are The Benefits?

Non-Judgmental and Unbiased

One of the many benefits of equine-assisted therapy We want to help people heal from trauma by offering them an environment where they feel
comfortable sharing complicated feelings and memories. It takes time for therapists to develop therapeutic rapport with clients because they must practice vulnerability and build trust before sharing personal experiences. A horse who has been trained for years to respond to certain behaviors and commands will provide an accurate reading of the patient’s mood without judgment.

Feedback and Mirroring

Horses are observant and alert. They notice everything going on around them. Clients often mimic their behaviors when they use an avatar; therefore, avatars allow clients to feel understood and connected. It also gives clients an outlet for their emotions, allowing them to use the horse’s behaviors and interactions for feedback and processing moments they may be having internally.

Managing Vulnerability

Clients may feel vulnerable when opening up about their emotions, past experiences, or personal
lives. However, they can use horses as a reference point to help them process these emotions and
utilize communication skills. It may be easier to think of horses when talking about pain. Or maybe they could use some examples from their own life that relate to animals who felt like they were hurt. Exposing the content in this way makes things easier to approach.

Which Conditions Can Equine Therapy Treat?

Some evidence suggests that the benefits of equine-assisted therapy may effectively manage specific health issues such as:

Anxiety

More than 18 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders include
panic disorder, agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder
(OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Anxiety often stems from worrying too much about things we cannot control. Working with horses allows us to focus on something else. Because horses are so alert and responsive to changes in their environment, they often perceive dangers before humans do. They may startle when startled by something unexpected, such as an approaching car, and then react quickly to avoid injury. Clients who struggle with anxiety can relate to this skill of sensing danger cues and responding in a heightened manner. For some people, processing emotional issues through a horses’ behaviors may be easier than talking directly about their personal experience with anxiety. One additional advantage of using equine-assistive Therapy for treating anxiety is helping clients learn to be vulnerable in a safe environment. As clients become comfortable interacting with horses and begin trying different things, therapists ask them to step outside their comfort zones by working with the horse. Clients can then use these experiences, including the fears and challenges they faced and any insight, discovery, or victory in those moments during therapy for themselves and others.

Addiction Treatment

Substance and alcohol abuse disorder has been increasing for decades in the U.S., but there’s no
reason why it must continue to grow. According to the CDC, between 2015 and 2016 alone,
there were approximately 72,500 deaths due to an opioid overdose. In 2016 alone, nearly half a million people died from an overdose related to opioids. There has never been a greater demand for effective treatments to help people overcome their addictions than there is today.
Equine-assisted psychotherapy offers a unique approach to treating substance abuse disorders
and other co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring conditions describe people who struggle with
addictions and have other mental health issues. The ultimate goal of wellness centers is to provide people who suffer from substance abuse disorder with the best care available to lead long, happy, and free lives once their substance problems have been treated. In addition to helping them overcome substance problems, they may be trying to repair relationships damaged by years of abuse or neglect. Learning to trust, practice vulnerability, and communication effectively can be challenging during this treatment process. Equine-assisted therapy can help people become comfortable enough to let people get close to them. It can help humans feel safe to interact with an animal they may not be familiar with. The experience can help clients become more open and willing to share their feelings when interacting with unfamiliar animals.

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