People are familiar with dogs as aides to those suffering from emotional, behavioral, mental health and physical issues, but many are surprised to find that horses are considered by some experts to be extremely effective in helping mental health patients. Equine therapy is a practice where children, teens and even adults work intensively with horses as part of a cognitive therapy treatment, and the results are very encouraging.
More mental health professionals are taking note of the benefits of equine therapy in those struggling with issues like anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, trust, abuse trauma and much more. The many healing powers of well-trained horses are only just now being studied as viable therapy options for certain patients. There are a growing number of equine therapy programs across the country, and many of them are connected to therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment programs for children and teenagers.
Equine Therapy Builds Trust
Equine therapy works well simply because the participants are not human. In other words, patients who have a hard time trusting others, or who are constantly worried about being judged and criticized, quickly learn to relax around horses. The novelty of being around horses, plus all the tasks associated with their care, grooming, feeding and exercising, are also an effective diversion from each patient’s problems. Spending time with horses gives people a chance to set aside their anxieties and emotions and focus on someone besides themselves.
Another positive aspect of equine therapy is the personality and behavior of the horses themselves. Anyone who has been around horses for a while knows that they effectively reflect the emotions of the humans around them. If a person is anxious or impatient, the horse will not be very tolerant and won’t behave well. Yelling, screaming, or becoming non-communicative with a horse will also not lead to desired behavior. Patients learn to control their emotions, modify their behavior and focus on what things the horse best responds to. Not coincidentally, horses respond best to confidence, calm demeanor, clear verbal communication, and body language. Patients make adjustments to themselves and their behavior in order to affect the horse. They can transfer these new skills into dealing with other people.
Horses Can Teach And Instill Self-Confidence
Increased self-confidence is yet another of the benefits that equine therapy provides. As patients learn more about the care of horses, they see immediate rewards and this boosts their confidence. Each successful interaction introduces more self-esteem and even when mistakes are made, they can be corrected and used as a learning experience. Equine therapy also gives therapists aâ€‹nd their clients some real-world examples to discuss, such as expressing frustration, controlling anger, managing anxiety, and many more cognitive behavior examples.
The more that mental health experts see the results of patients working with horses, the more valid equine therapy becomes. The many healing powers of well-trained horses can make a real difference in the progress of those with emotional or behavioral issues. When patients work with horses, they boost their chances of overcoming their challenges and learning better communication and behavior management skills. Transferring these skills from horses to people becomes much easier, and by that time, they are well on the road to better mental health and wellness.
Tyler Jacobson is a freelance writer, with past experience in content writing and outreach for parenting organizations and teen boys ranches. His areas of focus include: parenting, education, social media, addiction, and issues facing teenagers today. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin