Equine therapy, also known as Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT), is a treatment that includes equine activities and/or an equine environment in order to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth in persons suffering from ADD, Anxiety, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Dementia, Depression, Developmental Delay, Genetic Syndromes (such as Down Syndrome), traumatic brain injuries, behavioral issues, abuse issues, and many other psychological health problems.
Equine therapy can help the individual build confidence, self- efficiency, communication, trust, perspective, social skills, impulse control, and learn boundaries.
Since the horses have similar behaviors with humans, such as social and responsive behaviors, it is easy for the patients to create a connection with the horse.
Equine-assisted therapies have been recognized in the medical and psychological health field by most major countries.
Equine therapy can involve more than just riding the horse. In some sessions, a client might not even touch the horse at all. Often the therapist leading the session will set goals for the client to complete, such as leading the horse to a designated area or putting a halter on the horse. The client will complete the task to the best of their ability and then discuss the thought process, ideas and problem solving used to complete the task.
Discussing what the client is doing at a given time allows them to improve language skills. Listening to the instructor helps improve the individuals ability to listen and follow directions, ask questions, etc. Not only is there communication between the handler and the instructor, but also between the handler and the horse. This skill becomes especially helpful for those who are struggling with anxiety as often times they are stuck in worry about the past, or catastrophic thinking about the future. This activity encourages a person to be present and focused on the task at hand.
Horses are unique for therapy:
Non-judgmental and unbiased - horses react only to the patient’s behavior and emotions and are not biased by the patient’s physical appearance or past mistakes. this is crucial to the therapy and aids increase of self-esteem and self-confidence.
Feedback and mirroring - their nature as a prey and herd animal makes them hyper vigilant and sensitive, thus making them keen observers. This means that their feedback is provided earlier and more consistently than with a human therapist.
The horse has an innate tendency to mirror the patient’s behavior, physical movements and emotions, which help the participant be more aware of him or herself.