What Is Equine Therapy?
Equine is a term that is generally used when speaking about or relating to horses. This means that equine therapy is treatment involving horses. While this may seem like an odd idea to the public, equine therapy has become a very popular form of treatment since its inception. Today, people suffering from a variety of ailments take part in this therapy to find some kind of mental relief, resolve building, and spiritual empowerment, particularly among those who suffer from addiction.
While equine therapy may sound like simple horseback riding, a luxury to most, that is only part of it, and the actual therapy is arduous work. The residents of the treatment center are responsible for caring for, feeding, and grooming the horses. A horse is an intelligent animal and any kind of relationship with it requires trust. Someone cannot abuse a horse and expect it to just take it. This expectation from the horse creates a responsibility for the suffering individual. This responsibility is likely something they are missing from their life.
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How Is Equine Therapy Useful?
While equine therapy can be beneficial in a number of ways, it is especially helpful in building relationship skills. Working with a horse to build trust teaches skills necessary for day-to-day interaction with others. These skills include:
- Balancing internal feelings
- Improving confidence and assertiveness
- Developing understanding of boundaries
- Becoming more resilient and focused
- Learning critical non-verbal communication skills
- Feeling connected and needed
- Banishing negative emotions
- Fostering positive emotional growth
- Relaxing and being present in the moment
Recovery does not guarantee long-term sobriety. Unfortunately, relapse is a prominent issue in those who struggle with addiction. Often, a key part of this is that while those recovered have rid their bodies of the substance of their addiction, they have not built up the skills to rebuild their relationships. This can lead to isolation and push those recovering into finding solace in their old addiction.
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Who Benefits From Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy is beneficial to those who are trying to grab hold of their lives as they recover from an addiction. Many who have fallen victim to addiction suffer a blow to their confidence, making it hard for them to interact with others and potentially isolate themselves. Working with horses can help them understand how to open up and control their impulse, like a living biofeedback machine. Equine therapy has also shown positive effects in people with different disabilities that create issues with social interactions and impulse control.
Therapy can also help with co-occurring disorders, such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Attention deficit hyperactive disorder
- Behavioral issues, including aggressive behavior
- Eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia
- Relationship problems
- Communication issues
Where To Find Equine Therapy
Despite equine therapy’s long history, dating back to 1969 in the US, it has recently been taken more seriously in the past few decades. This is partially due to its popularity among celebrities. However, the therapy has grown and more everyday people are beginning to use it as part of their recovery, be it from addiction or some other ailment. Treatment centers throughout the US can offer patients these treatments, and can offer other alternative treatments patients can utilize.
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Don’t Hesitate To Get The Help You Deserve
If you or someone you love suffers from addiction, equine therapy may help in recovery. Finding somewhere near you, however, can be difficult, especially if you’re located in a metropolitan area. If you’re interested in a treatment center with equine therapy, but don’t know where to look, contact a treatment provider today.
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Learn about Dr. Ashish Bhatt
Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience