When thinking about different kinds of therapy, it is not usually common that one’s first idea is Equine Therapy. However, it is important to learn about equine therapy and its benefits, as it can be extremely helpful. Although not a popular type of therapy, many people, ranging from children to adults can benefit from it.
What exactly is it though? Equine therapy is an experiential treatment method that uses the connection between people and horses to enhance physical or emotional healing. Experiential learning is learning by doing. It is the way humans learn best. Equine-assisted psychotherapy incorporates horses experientially for emotional growth and learning. It is a ground-based collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional working with clients and horses to address treatment goals. This can be used in a lot of types of healing, whether it be eating disorders, addiction, family issues, depression, anxiety, etc. With that being said, while it may not work for everyone, these struggles can be helped and looked at through a new lens with equine therapy.
It works differently for everyone, but the main purpose of equine therapy is to use horses as obstacles in your own life, whether that obstacle is a person, a feeling, or an upcoming event is up to you. The most special thing about this is that the session can go anywhere, and while one horse can represent confronting a friend, that same horse can represent your sibling or sandwiches. It all depends on the person.
Horses are honest teachers with personalities as varied as those of humans, and therefore, they react differently to each person and each action. Horses have a unique sensitivity to human feelings. They tend to mirror our emotions and body language. We can learn about ourselves through them. Along with this, Studies have shown that animal-assisted therapy reduces cortisol, the stress hormone. Being present with the horses can encourage a person to be alive in the present moment. The horses realize that is the only moment we have.
This can help tremendously with:
- Reducing stress
- Encouraging being in the present moment
- Helps you understand why you are feeling certain emotions
- Helps you look at your situation from an outside perspective, rather than being alive from it
Think about it like this:
When you zoom into a photo too close, it is extremely unclear, blurry, and difficult to make sense of, especially when you don’t know what the photo was beforehand. However, as you zoom out, it starts to make sense. This can be true in life, and this is especially helpful to do in equine therapy. As you are in a difficult situation, just like the zoomed in photo, it is really challenging to make sense of all of it, but by working with horses and using them as pieces of our life, we can zoom out and look at those struggles from a different point of view.
Here’s an example of how a session could go:
Allison walked into the space with the horses wanting to help her anxiety. She felt it coming on without warning, and she was looking for help. She was presented with one of the miniature horses and given the opportunity to move this horse from one space to another without force.
Allison’s level of anxiety and stress increased as the horse refused to do what she wanted her to do. After some questioning, Allison realized that he felt the anxiety building in her body. She was able to identify the anger and take a deep breath. She then tried a different, calm, patient, and more assertive horse. The horse accepted this version of Allison and easily moved where Allison had asked
Allison left the session understanding her anxiety, where it originates, how to confront tough situations, how to breathe into it, and work through it. This happened in one meeting with the horses. The physical and the mental coming together is experiential learning, and it is powerful.