What is equine therapy or equine-assisted therapy? How is equine therapy performed? Discover all the psychological benefits of equine therapy.
Animal therapies can offer an extraordinary amount of emotional support. Beyond the benefit of living with our pets on a psychological level, animals, such as horses, can help on many occasions when people cannot. So much so that equine therapy or therapy with horses has many therapeutic benefits that will improve our mental health.
What is equine therapy or therapy with horses?
Equine therapy or therapy with horses consists of psychotherapy assisted by a professional psychologist in which a therapeutic process is carried out with this animal. In this way, the person riding the horse or receiving the treatment is also in charge of grooming, feeding, and guiding the horse while these are supervised by a mental health professional.
Therapies with horses to treat some emotional problems or certain diseases have multiple benefits, not only in rehabilitation and mobility but also in psychology.
Equine therapy has been used since 1875 with very positive results for patients, thanks to the observations of the French neurologist Chassaignac. But it was the massacres caused by the world wars that led to the widespread use of horses for the rehabilitation of war victims, as evidenced by the creation, in 1917, of the first groups specializing in equine therapy at Oxford University Hospital.
This equestrian therapy is not only beneficial in the rehabilitation of limbs or mobility. Equine-assisted treatment is highly favorable in cases of neurodegenerative diseases and functional diversity and psychological problems such as stress or anxiety.
Benefits of equine therapy
Recognized by the World Health Organization, equine therapy is very beneficial for physical, mental, and emotional health. According to psychologists, the benefits of equine therapy for our health are the following.
1. Emotional management
There are many reasons why our emotions can get out of control. In these cases, dealing with these feelings can be very difficult for the person who suffers from it, being almost impossible on some occasions. One of the benefits of equine therapy or therapy with horses is precisely that the bond with this animal allows the person to identify, experience, and cope with their own emotions.
This is because horses are susceptible to emotions. Thus, when someone is angry or aggressive, the horse becomes stubborn. On the other hand, if someone is relaxed and calm, the horse will act the same way. For this reason, horse therapy can help the patient detect his own emotions and learn to manage them.
2. Improves social skills
Problems relating to others can affect many areas of the person suffering from them. Thus, equine therapy is very effective for addressing these problems and learning to manage relationships with others.
By establishing a close bond with a horse, people can recognize there patterns of interaction with others. This is because even though horses cannot speak, the reality is that these animals have more than the extraordinary ability to communicate with other beings. So much so that through equestrian therapy, people can learn how their behavior affects others. You can read more essays about this and other topics at the cheap essay writing service PaperHelp.org.
3. Learning to set boundaries
For many people, learning to say no is a barrier they cannot overcome. Thanks to the benefits of equine therapy, individuals can understand how their behavior patterns and thinking generate toxic attitudes toward themselves. Horses, as we have said, are exceptional communicators. So much so that they know how to set boundaries naturally. Therefore, people can understand that developing these boundaries is good for you and others.
4. Overcome fears
Bonding with a horse is an effective way to overcome your fears. The reason for this is that these animals are very intimidating. Thanks to their constant interaction, people can see how to tolerate and process these emotions that generate fear.
5. Improves confidence, security, and self-esteem
Another benefit of equine therapy is that because the person who rides a horse begins to learn to gallop or relate better with this animal, he/she begins to feel better about him/herself.
This is because only successes are perceived with horses since animals, unlike people, do not judge. Therefore, we are not less afraid of making mistakes, and therefore, we end up trusting ourselves more. Thanks to these small processes, people can learn to have more self-esteem through these therapies.
6. Stress control
Stress is one of the most widespread epidemics of today. For this reason, through therapy assisted with horses, people can better cope with stressful situations because being with these animals can help to relax.
7. It favors non-verbal communication
Our body language reveals much more than we think. For example, our posture not only determines our security and self-esteem but also reveals to others how they may treat us. Through therapy with horses or equine therapy, people can improve their nonverbal communication since these animals communicate mainly through it.
As we can see, there are many benefits of equine therapy at a mental level. People can learn much more thanks to these therapies than it may seem at first glance.
Exercises performed in equine therapy
Psychologists perform several exercises as part of the therapies with horses, which will depend on each patient’s needs. Among them, the most common are the following:
- Preparation of the animal, with tasks such as putting on a harness.
- Horseback riding (at a walk, trot, and canter).
- Teamwork for couples with communication problems
- Brushing and hygiene of the horse
- Control of the animal
- Feeding and care
Therapies with horses are successfully used with adult patients and children, where excellent results are achieved in patients with autism, Down syndrome, shyness, and promotor or motor problems… They have also proven to be very positive in reducing stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.
The sessions can be carried out individually or collectively. Even in pairs, to encourage teamwork and communication. Equine therapy was already revealed by Hippocrates himself, a Greek doctor who already, during the V and IV centuries B.C., praised the virtues of horseback riding for the treatment of mood and emotional problems.