For a good number of troubled teens a properly trained horse is the best form of therapy available. Equine therapy has been proven effective for teens with conditions such as autism, ADD/ADHD, severe physical or emotional trauma as well as substance abuse and depression or other mood disorders. For teens with complex or multiple conditions, equine therapy is often the best resource to help them learn to safely and gently manage their issues.
Horses Are Great Listeners
With horses, troubled young men find safety to verbalize their deepest secrets often for the first time. As a young man learns to talk to a horse, he develops the confidence to finally open up to a therapist. In this sense, horses become a gateway for recovery. Equine therapy for troubled teens has also proven especially effective for teens who have experienced severe physical abuse since it is a quieter, gentler therapy method.
Horses Make Great Communicators
One aspect of equine therapy which surprises people the most is how horses can help troubled teens improve their social skills. Weak social skills are common to troubled youth, but give a young man a horse and suddenly he has to develop his non-verbal communication skills. Since every movement a horse makes has a meaning, young men have to first learn to recognize and then decipher them. Horses also command a level of respect so until a teen’s behavior is acceptable, a horse will refuse to work with or respond to them. Through direct communication horses teach troubled young men to notice things like tone of voice and body language and these skills help them better communicate with people.
Horses Are Great For Troubled Teens
Teens are troubled for reasons some adults cannot fathom but through equine therapy young men find acceptance for the first time from a well-trained therapy horse. Typically troubled teens have communication issues and there is no better creature than a horse to teach communication skills. Since horses are capable of sensing not only emotion but intention horses are often better therapists than humans for teens who are deeply troubled. Horses are so effective; many young men who have completed an equine therapy program report it to be a life-changing experience. Currently there are close to 500 accredited therapeutic riding centers in North America.
Equine therapy has been around for centuries so it always surprises me when parents ask about equine residential treatment for their struggling teens. Usually the questions are something like, “Is this legit?” but the answer always is, “Yes!” A well-trained horse is a perfect match for a troubled teen.
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