Equine therapy is the discipline of using horses as a means to provide metaphoric experiences in order to promote emotional growth. The horses provide an excellent way for troubled youth to react when they are otherwise therapy resistant. Equine therapists will usually teach many lessons on ways in which horses learn, react, and follow instructions to the lives of youth themselves.
One example that is used often is when students are just beginning a horse therapy program, the instructor will have the horse stand in the middle of the arena. The youth are supposed to get the horse to move outside of a large circle without touching the horse at all. Many of the students often clap, whistle, yell all to no avail. Lessons are taught that when others, be it parents, friends, counselors or associates try and get us to do something the best way is probably not yelling, clapping, or forcing.
Students will also learn how to lead a horse. Most often they begin by trying to pull on a lead rope, standing in front of the horse. They learn that the best way to lead a horse is not in front or behind the horse, but by its side. A list of equine therapy programs can be found with information on their individual websites on their specific program details
Equine therapy should always be performed by a certified Equine-Assisted therapist. Many associations exists in order to provide certification or training in equine therapy. It has shown to be very effective with patients who manifest depression, attention-deficit, conduct disorders, dissociative disorders, anxiety, dementia, autism, and many other related disorders.
Why use equine therapy?
Equine therapy has shown to have many positive benefits when correctly taught by certified therapists. Some of them include:
- Decreased Isolation
- Impulse Control
- Social Skills
- Spiritual Connection
Equine Therapy usually includes instruction in horse care, grooming procedures, saddlery, and basic equitation. Safety is the number one priority for all participants in equine therapy. Participants often wear helmets and other protective gear should they fall from a horse during a therapeutic session.