Benefits Of Equine Therapy

Equine Therapy

What is Equine Therapy?

Equine therapy is a form of therapy that uses horses to heal people who have a range of mental health issues and genetic syndromes. For example, it ameliorates dementia, autism, anxiety, ADD, delay in mental development, Down syndrome and many other genetic ailments. Also, the practice is ideal for patients suffering from depression, behavior and abuse issues, as well as trauma and other injuries to the brain.

Most people assume that equestrian therapy is all about horseback riding. However, there is an impressive range of other equine therapeutic activities. Some patients may shy from horseback riding especially if they feel intimidate by the size and features of the horse. Equine therapeutic activities include:

  • Leading a horse
  • Grooming a horse
  • Feeding a horse, and
  • Haltering a horse

All these activities need to be supervised by either or both a mental health professional and a horse professional.

The equine therapist can observe the interaction between the patient and the horse during and after the activity to identify any behavior patterns as well as emotions and process thoughts. The therapist can then correctly diagnose any emotional or behavioral challenge that the patient might be having. The chosen activity is dependent on the patient’s type of disorder and its seriousness.

In these activities, the main concern is the safety of the patients. The therapists ensure students or patients put on appropriate gear to cushion them against injury in the event of a fall from the horse during the session.

Equine Therapy Facilitates Healing

The goal of these activities is to help patients develop skills and attributes such as self-control, responsibility, accountability, self-confidence as well as problem-solving skills.

The therapy capitalizes on the physical and mental exercise that interacting or working with a horse usually provides. The benefits are both mental and emotional. Working or interacting with a horse means having to deal with its attitudes, moods as well as personality. Physically, horseback riding provides you with an opportunity to improve muscle strength alongside coordination and balance.

For people who are not good when it comes to social interactions, working with horses grants them the much-needed practice. The reason equine therapy is ideal for people who are not good with social interactions is that horses are non-judgmental; they do not have any preconceived expectations or motives; and, moreover, they are very effective in mirroring the attitudes and behaviors of the humans with whom they are interacting.

During the interactions with horses under the supervision and guidance of equine therapists, patients have a great opportunity to note their proclivity to engage in self-defeating and negative actions or thoughts. The realization provides an excellent basis for discussion as well as processing both in and after the equine therapy experience.

Horses are chosen for emotional therapy owing to the fact that they have the ability to respond fast and provide feedback to a rider’s prompts or behavior. Moreover, as already stated, they have the ability to mirror the rider’s emotion. They behave similar to humans in their social and responsive behavior; therefore, it is very easy for patients to establish connection with a horse.

History of Equine Therapy

The practice of using equine therapy for emotional and other problems dates back to the ancient Greek times. Some ancient writings by Hippocrates mention horse therapy or Hippo-therapy a lot. However, in modern times, the technique of using horses in equine therapy gained notoriety in Austria, Germany and Switzerland in the 1950s when equine therapy was employed together with physiotherapy for people with physical disabilities.

In this kind of therapy, a horse’s movements were used to influence neuromuscular chances in patients. In the last 20 years, the practice has evolved to include psychological therapy. In the contemporary times, people are realizing how animals can be empathetic and therefore use them in the recovery process. That way, equine therapy continues to increase in popularity.

Benefits of Equestrian Therapy

Studies have shown that people with a range of behavioral, psycho-motor and cognitive disabilities respond impressively to equine therapy when it is taught by a qualified equine therapist. The equine therapy training is geared towards:

  • Improving communication in the patient.
  • Improving the patient’s self-esteem levels. Having a low self-esteem can affect almost every area of your life. Equine therapy encourages individuals to face their fears and in the end boost the individuals’ confidence. Forging a bond with the horse and knowing how to interact or work with it in an effective and confident way can help you emerge out of your shell and start relating well with people.
  • Fostering trust.
  • Decreasing isolation in patients by improving their socialization skills.
  • It helps patients to learn to control their impulses and rein in their emotions. If a patient is prone to anger, the training can help them to manage that. That is because horses usually don’t respond well to anger- which means the patients have to act in a totally different way in order to achieve the response they desire. Moreover, working or interacting with horses will help the patients to examine what causes their anger and accordingly devise techniques to overcome it.
  • It helps patients learn their boundaries and limits.
  • Alleviating anxiety. Equine assisted therapy can address anxiety and other related disorders. A horse is huge, and being in one place with it may instill feelings of anxiety. When the patient overcomes these fears and successfully works with the horse to accomplish certain tasks, the feelings of anxiety diminish. Moreover, the practice is a very physical therapy which draws people away from their internal fears.
  • Autism. Equine therapy can both be fun and beneficial to people suffering from autism. In contrast to regular therapy, this kind of therapy entails little verbal communication and is mostly focused on behavior and non-verbal cues. This can significantly help autistic patients to better understand people’s behavior.
  • Trauma. Many patients find it difficult to overcome trauma. With the help of equine therapy, however, patients can overcome trauma. It uses the gentle nature of a horse to help trauma victims to redevelop trust and confidence. Horses are ideal for this exercise since they are honest and non-judgmental.

At all times equine therapy should be administered by a certified equine therapist.

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