You may have heard about the therapeutic benefits of pets, but did you know that horses can provide a similar effect? Of course, the relationship between a horse and a patient is a bit different, but its therapeutic benefits may surprise you.
What is equine therapy?
When you use horses in therapy, it’s called equine therapy. This type of therapy is meant to facilitate emotional growth and personal development while treating various disorders.
Equine therapy is currently being used to treat addiction, autism, ADD, dementia, cerebral palsy and more.
How equine therapy works
Programs with equine therapy are becoming more common, but programs differ depending on where they’re held. The key to success is to tailor the program to the individual’s needs, which obviously vary based on condition and personality. For example, people in an equine rehab program for addiction typically spend time with horse daily while they work with therapists and addiction counselors.
The goal of spending time with the horse is to develop a relationship while tending to the horse’s needs. These needs may include grooming, exercise, and feeding.
You may be surprised to learn that many equine therapy programs do not include riding. In fact, many horses used for equine therapy are un-rideable because of age, injury or something else. The therapeutic effects are in connection with the horse and tending to the horse’s needs.
Benefits of equine therapy
Horses and other animals are well-known for their soothing abilities. Dogs are often used to help reduce stress, improve mood and even alleviate pain. We’re all familiar with therapy dogs on some level. What’s interesting is that horses work much in the same way. They aren’t as small and cuddly as dogs, but they have similar therapeutic effects.
In the example of drug rehab, taking care of the horse gives the recovering addicts another focus aside from drugs and negative thoughts. When they delve deeper into the program, addicts get used to keeping a regular schedule and acting responsibly. The combination of this with therapy encourages recovering addicts to take responsibility for their own lives and actions.
Improving sense of self-worth
People who struggle with the conditions treated by equine therapy often also struggle with feelings of inadequacy. When patients work with horses and successfully handle their care, it can help their sense of confidence and self-worth. The more they work with horses, the more patients will gain their trust and love. This can be an overwhelmingly powerful experience for people in treatment.
Patients with behavioral issues may benefit from equine therapy as they learn to communicate with the horse and tend to its needs. This type of non-verbal relationship along with therapy can help patients gain a better understanding of general relationships and behavior. They’ll see how the animal reacts to their mood, body language, and tone of voice.
Equine therapy isn’t as well-known as pet therapy, but it could possibly be more effective for some patients. As patients learn to interact with an unfamiliar animal, they can learn a lot about themselves and their behavior in the process.