Horses, with their powerful stature, expressive eyes, and undeniable grace, have captivated and intrigued humans for centuries. We love these creatures, and while we don’t really need them for work anymore, we still keep them around anyway.
For the last few decades, we seem to have found a new use for these gentle beasts in the form of equine therapy. Although it’s enjoying increased popularity nowadays, records show that equine therapy has actually been around for a while. Humans figured out that working with or being around horses was beneficial to our well-being and we’ve gone on to include them in therapy.
Uses and Benefits of Equine Therapy
There are several forms of equine therapy, each employing different ways of interacting with horses, from just feeding and grooming, walking them in a line to saddling and riding them. These interactions have proved beneficial when dealing with various groups including veterans with PTSD, teens with different behavioral and psychological issues as well as kids with autism.
Equine therapy has been found to help teens with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and also those struggling with drug or substance abuse.
Teenagers who take part in equine therapy get to learn the following:
- How to be responsible -by taking care of the horses
- Patience- it takes time to win a horse’s trust
- Self-awareness- they learn more about themselves by interacting with horses
- How to communicate better through learning the commands to guide or direct a horse and also through gaining a better understanding of their emotions
How Horses Help
Judging by the reported success of equine therapy, there’s no doubt that horses have a lot to teach us. But what is it about horses that helps heal people?
Well, researchers, therapists and others involved in equine therapy believe that part of the answer lies in the horses’ personalities. Horses are prey animals. As such, they’re more comfortable as part of a herd. They are also highly attuned to the surrounding environment, including the emotional states of people around them in order to differentiate friend from foe. This makes them highly intuitive and sensitive to our emotions, sometimes detecting feelings that we’re not even aware of having.
Additionally, horses have no pretense. They’re open and honest creatures and they mirror our emotions back to us, giving us instant feedback. For instance, if you’re angry or agitated, a horse will shy away from you. Winning a horse’s trust takes time and as you work on that and watch the animal’s reaction, you become more aware of how your emotional state affects those around you.
Most people are able to relax around horses as they start enjoying their company. Unlike other forms of therapy, equine therapy has no stigma attached to it and those taking part in it find themselves opening up quickly since the horses don’t judge or criticize.
While equine therapy is still a growing field, we can’t discount its effectiveness especially when it comes to helping those struggling with mental health issues.