Horses are a unique combination of beauty and brawn. Most weigh over 1,000 pounds and on a whim can send their rider flying through the air. These commanding creatures also have a high level of emotional intelligence that can teach teens a lot!
Equine therapy teaches valuable skills and lessons from caring for and building a relationship with horses. More and more treatment centers and boarding schools are beginning to use equine therapy as part of their curriculum. And for good reason, a recent Washington State University study discovered that children who work with horses have lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. The benefits of equine therapy are vast. Here are just a few:
Horses Teach Teens Responsibility
Horses don't care if you are tired or if you have a big paper due tomorrow or if it is your birthday — they need to be fed and cared for. Many teens have issues with procrastination or beginning projects and never finishing them. They may or may not see the ramifications of these bad habits. Caring for a living, breathing animal shows them that their actions do matter and affect others.
Horses Teach Teens Confidence
Sulky and unhappy teenagers have body language that says, "Leave me alone!" But you can't hide or slouch on a horse. You have to sit up and take the reins! In addition to reinforcing good posture, horses force us to come out of a passive mindset and be assertive.
Horses Teach Teens About Non-verbal Communication and Emotion Control
Horses can sense fear and frustration and will react negatively to it. When their rider or trainer is calm, cool and collected, they cooperate. They might not be able to speak, but they can read your emotions by a simple touch. Unlike some therapy exercises involving a ropes course or an obstacle course, equine therapy provides real-time emotional feedback. A study by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture revealed that individuals who work with horses have increased emotional intelligence.
Horses Teach Teens About Rolling with the Punches
While a properly trained horse will respond predictably to most commands, sometimes something random can set them off. Equine therapy gives teens opportunities to learn how to remain calm in stressful situations and find peace in not having total control of all situations. Going with the flow is key.