Animals tend to provide a great deal of emotional support. Equine-assisted therapy is a cutting-edge therapeutic method for addiction recovery. Animals are also used in rehabilitation environments to assist clients with difficult emotional interactions. Individuals can gain greater insight into other aspects of life through working with horses. Interestingly, many people benefit from equine therapy in ways that they don’t get from conventional talk therapy.
Equine Assisted Therapy has a long and illustrious history.
Equine therapy (EAT), uses equine activities and/or an equine environment to help people with ADD, Anxiety, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Dementia, Depression, Developmental Delay, Genetic Syndromes (such as Down Syndrome), traumatic brain injuries, behavioral issues, and abuse. Equine Therapy may assist in the development of confidence, self-efficacy, communication, trust, insight, social skills, impulse control, and the learning of boundaries in individuals. Since horses and humans have similar behaviors, such as social and receptive behaviors, it is simple for patients to develop a bond with the horse. Riders with disabilities compete in national and international sport riding events, demonstrating their impressive achievements. Most major countries have recognized equine-assisted treatments in the medical and mental health fields.
Equine therapy dates back to ancient Greek literature when horses were used for therapeutic riding. In 600 B.C., the Orbasis of ancient Lydia registered the therapeutic benefit of horseback riding. Following a poliomyelitis outbreak in Scandinavia in 1946, Equine Therapy was introduced.
Therapeutic Riding was first brought to the United States and Canada in 1960 when the Community Association of Disabled Riding was created (CARD). Riding for the disabled originated in the United States as a method of leisure and inspiration for education, as well as therapeutic benefits.
Elephants, dolphins, sheep, and cats have also been used for medicinal purposes in the past. The broad and intimidating presence of horses forces people to gain confidence in them.
Equine therapy can include more than just horseback riding. A client might not even contact the horse during certain sessions. Often, the trainer in charge of the session will assign tasks to the client, such as guiding the horse to a certain location or placing a halter on the horse. The client will complete the task to the best of their abilities before discussing the thought process, concepts, and problem-solving techniques used to complete it. When you chat about what the client is doing at any given time, you will help them develop their language skills. Listening to the teacher enhances a person’s ability to obey instructions, ask questions, and so on. Not only between the handler and the coach, but also between the handler and the horse, there is contact. This ability is particularly beneficial for people who suffer from anxiety because they are often caught in concern about the past or catastrophic thinking about the future. This activity helps people to be present and concentrate on what they’re doing.
Cognitive Therapy, as well as play and talk therapy, may be readily adapted by therapists who teach Equine-Assisted Therapies. The Equine therapist will make recommendations about the processes or strategies used in the sessions based on the essence of the anxiety and its intensity. Cognitive therapy, practicing games, task preparation, play therapy, storytelling, and talk therapy are the main approaches used.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Anxiety is often treated with this form of therapy. Horses detect danger and respond by being more aware of their surroundings, often attempting to escape if the situation appears to be too dangerous. Individuals with anxiety disorders may be able to detect these changes by observation, encouraging them to talk to their therapist about their nervous behaviors. Individuals’ nervous responses may be significantly reduced by focusing on the animal’s anxiety rather than on themselves, allowing them to question automatic thinking. The patient will practice staying calm and taking control of his or her own thoughts during this process.
Putting exercises into effect: Individuals with extreme anxiety often avoid behaviors that are difficult, frightening, or outside of their comfort zone. This method encourages a person to select an activity that is outside of their current skill level. The therapist would then offer assistance if needed and speak with them about any thoughts or emotions that these events have caused. Washing, and feeding the horse, for example, all require preparation and active communication.
Scheduling activities: Because of the effect anxiety has on their lives, many people suffering from anxiety will tend to avoid tasks or other duties that were previously a part of their everyday routine. However, the more they avoid, the more their fear is compounded by the possibility of returning to those tasks. Since the physical needs of the animal/horses can change at any time, preparing or creating a routine to care for an animal or horse during the day can teach a person a sense of duty as well as flexibility. This helps the individual to shift their attention away from their anxiety and return to the structure of the day, which fosters a sense of competence and responsibility.
Since horses exhibit interpersonal activity, equine therapy is often used as a team-building practice or in family or group therapy. Equine therapy often helps the group to work together to reach a common purpose since it is always goal-driven.
Horses’ Peculiar Roles in EAT
This is a list of horse characteristics that make them perfect for therapy.
Unbiased and nonjudgmental: Horses respond solely to the patient’s behavior and feelings, and are unaffected by the patient’s physical appearance or previous mistakes. This, according to patients, is critical to the therapy and aids in the development of self-esteem and self-confidence.
Reflection and feedback: As prey and herd animals, they are hyper vigilant and alert, making them excellent observers. This means they get suggestions faster and more reliably than they would with a human therapist. The horse has an inherent ability to mimic the patient’s actions, body gestures, and feelings, assisting the participant in becoming more self-aware. It enables patients to “be felt.” The equine expert will then interpret the input and the community can discuss it.
The Use of Metaphors for real life: The desire of a therapist to use the horse as a metaphor for other issues aids in the application of equine therapy to real-world issues. An example of how a therapist might use the horse as a metaphor to help a patient sort out problems with their own life: “One kid was having great trouble explaining how they felt about an imminent move to another state.” She was, however, able to include several tips for making a horse that was being sold feel more at ease in his new surroundings.” The child was able to better understand and cope with her own step by using the horse as a metaphor.
Equine Therapy Specifics
Monty Roberts, the author of The Man Who Listens to Animals, is known around the world for his gentle approach to training and taming wild or misbehaving horses. Roberts’ turbulent childhood at the hands of an abusive father is chronicled in this autobiographical novel. Roberts grew up around horses and developed an early sensitivity to them, experiencing more of a kinship with them than a master/beast relationship.
Roberts observed how horses communicated with each other in the wild while on a trip to Nevada in his early teens, and he converted his findings into a theory and strategy for compassionately training them. Roberts’ unusual approach caught the attention of the Queen of England, with whom he has performed horse-training demonstrations and established a friendship.
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Today, equine therapy is becoming a recognized type of therapy in the United States. While Roberts is not the founder of equine therapy, many of his ideas are shared by qualified equine therapists. While different treatment facilities can have different services, the essence of equine therapy is the same. Working with a horse will provide an opportunity for the client to learn new communication skills and develop as an individual.
The following are some of the advantages of equine therapy:
Have faith in yourself.
Controlling the impulses
a broader viewpoint
In an equine therapy session, a variety of methods can be used to improve certain personal values and life skills. For example, a client may be placed in a ring with a horse and asked to lead the horse without making any physical contact during a session. Yelling, snapping fingers, threats, stamping feet, and other such actions will not work with a horse, just as they rarely do with other humans. In fact, a horse cannot be prodded from behind or led from the front. In equine therapy, a person will discover that a horse will join in with them if they stand by their side. Many people are gently forced to challenge long-held beliefs about communication and relationships and step into modern, more humane approaches because equine therapy is so far outside the box for them.
Contact us today for more information on equine-assisted therapy or information on FRN services that include it.
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