I talk a lot about horses and how they play a key—almost divine—role in healing peoples’ hearts and minds. I do this because I have seen people make incredible breakthroughs through their interaction with horses. This has given me a unique perspective on the therapeutic value of horses.
In my line of work, I have come across lots of teens and young people struggling with mental and behavioral disorders. These disorders run the gamut from depression and anxiety to eating or substance abuse disorders. There are those teens who act out, rebel and become generally difficult and there are those who withdraw into themselves, rarely interacting with anyone else.
Parents of such troubled teens often seek all kinds of treatment to help their children—from medication to enrolling them in therapeutic treatment centers. Sometimes the treatment works, and other times it doesn’t. It’s a process.
Finding Peace of Mind Through Equine Therapy
Some of the best results I’ve seen in my career have come from individuals’ interaction with horses in a therapeutic environment.
I admit, I was skeptical when I first heard about horses assisting therapists in equine-therapy for troubled teens. How could a horse succeed where human therapists have failed? Sure horses are wonderful creatures but how could they help anyone heal—especially those who’ve been struggling for a long time?
But I shelved my skepticism long enough to attend a few sessions where troubled teen boys and girls were taken through different exercises with horses. To my surprise, they seemed to respond better and quicker than they would in traditional office-based talk therapy.
I have observed teens gaining greater confidence as they got horses to accomplish certain tasks. I have witnessed some gain a higher sense of self-awareness necessary to heal their emotional wounds by simply observing how the horse reacts to them.
I saw how teens with emotional and psychological issues experienced healing from their interaction with horses. Finally, I had to admit that equine-facilitated psychotherapy was a fantastic idea.
What Makes Horses Such Good Therapy Animals?
By talking with certified equine therapists and doing my own research, I discovered that many individuals experience positive feelings such as acceptance, compassion, and well-being with horses thanks to 2 major traits.
Firstly horses are prey animals, and because of this, they’ve developed a hyper-vigilance that makes them acutely aware of their surroundings. This allows them to detect and reflect the emotional states of those around them which in turn gives humans a glimpse into their own emotional state.
Secondly, horses are herd animals, and as such, they have innate equine qualities that enable them to get along with others in a herd. They’re accepting, honest and non-judgmental animals with no duplicity. These qualities encourage troubled individuals to let their guard down and learn to trust again.
After seeing countless people learn how to identify and process feelings through the self-awareness gleaned from interacting with horses, I’m convinced that horses are indeed good for our mental and emotional health. I only wish more people realized this.