Many people are aware of the therapeutic benefits gained by being around animals. Horses have long been used for equine therapy. The practice began thousands of years ago when ancient civilizations recognized patients experiencing improvement when caring for or when riding horses.
Therapeutic Equine Programs
Equine-assisted therapy strives to facilitate rehabilitative healing through interaction with horses. Therapy programs are explicitly based on the individual needs of patients. Many programs involve the supervision of a licensed mental health professional or a licensed physical therapist. Various forms of equine therapy have been shown to benefit patients suffering from emotional, psychological, and physical problems that include:
- Behavioral disorders
- Traumatic brain injury
Helps Teach Relationship Building
In psychosocial situations, horses teach clients how to build relationships. Horses do not judge individuals. But, they also do not automatically accept someone until a bond of trust develops. The intuitive animals detect an individual’s mood through verbal and non-verbal communication. Clients learn that horses respond positively when approached with a calm, soft voice and a gentle hand. Over time, the animal comes to know and trust their human partner. In turn, the patient builds the confidence, knowledge, and skill needed to encourage the animal to respond and cooperate.
Someone who has not spent time around horses may initially feel intimidated by their size while having no idea how to communicate and care for the animal. The relationship gradually forms between animals and their human counterparts during feeding, grooming, and spending time together. In this way, individuals come to realize that healthy relationships are a balance between giving and taking.
Therapy horses rely on human counterparts for their health and well-being. Individuals participating in a program may be required to assume responsibility for various aspects of the horse’s care. Feeding, grooming, maintaining their stall may all be part of the process. Program participants might also be required to perform other duties around the facility to form a work ethic while being responsible for themselves and others.
Provides Physical Therapy
Patients having musculoskeletal disorders or injuries benefit from riding therapy horses. They learn how to balance their bodies better and coordinate their limbs while atop the horse. Interacting with and riding animals also provides a sense of enjoyment, satisfaction, and achievement.