Have you ever wondered what can gained with communing with nature? Turns out, a whole lot. And when it comes to our pets and service animals, research has shown that spending time with our furry friends can help alleviate stress, depression and even treat PTSD.
Equine therapy is a holistic treatment teaches an individual to care for and ride horses. When used alongside general treatment, equine therapy can help treat both physical disorders such as cerebral palsy and paralysis as well as mental disorders such as and anxiety, ADHD, and addiction.
During the therapy, individuals consult with mental health specialists and horse trainers. Together they work with the patient to build the relationship between the horse and rider. On the training end, this includes training in verbal commands and proper riding etiquette.
During sessions where working with a therapist is a goal, individuals use the experience gained in equine therapy to emotionally process these experiences in the context of issues they are facing. As a recreational pastime, equine therapy promotes general wellness. It builds muscle, builds endurance. improves motor control and can improve the function of the heart and lungs.1
These are just a few examples of how equine therapy is a flexible treatment with a wide range of benefits.
Equine Therapy and Substance Abuse Disorder and Mental Health
When it comes to substance abuse, individuals often struggle with a variety of issues that can interfere with recovery. And of those with substance use disorder, (SUD) a whopping 37.9%(7.7 million) have one or more co-occurring mental illnesses.
People with co-occurring disorders often struggle to make progress and stay in addiction treatment. While experts continue to find innovate ways to keep them in recovery, holistic treatments like equine Therapy can help treat a variety of conditions including
- Cognitive Deficiencies
- ADHD, Anxiety and Depression
- Behavioral Issues
- Trauma and Grief
- Difficulties Socializing or Trusting Others
In the scope of addiction recovery, equine therapy is usually prescribed following detox and is included as a part of some inpatient rehab and outpatient treatment programs. When used alongside standard evidence-based treatments, it can be a valuable addition to an individual’s treatment plan.
History of Equine Therapy
The history quite-Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT)dates to ancient Greece. The use of horses for therapeutic purposes was noted by Hippocrates the “father of modern medicine”. Horse riding appears again in the 17th century where it was said to be an effective treatment for gout, neurological issues, and poor motivation.
Modern interest in Equine-Assisted Therapy was rekindled in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics where Olympic rider Lis Harteldivulged that riding had helped her to overcome the limitations of polio and paralysis. Today, PATH International, one of the largest organizations for equine therapy has close to 4,800 certified educators and 873 locations worldwide.
Lessons learned in Equine Therapy
Much can be said about the personality of horses. Horses are incredibly observant both at sensing their surroundings and the emotions of people around them. When learning to ride and care for these animals, patients quickly discover that horses may be unwilling to cooperate, become aloof or are simply disinterested.
Accompanied by an equine specialist individual start off at the basic levels of horse maintenance. This could mean things like brushing, feeding, haltering, and leading. These activities can create a sense of accomplishment.
- A Sense of Accomplishment and Self Esteem
Coming into rehab, people usually find themselves at a low point. This can manifest as low self-esteem, lack of energy and ambition and a feeling of a loss of control.
Learning to care for a horse can help give a person a sense of structure and responsibility while getting real feedback from the horses can foster a sense of responsibility and self-satisfaction.
- Emotional Awareness
Horses are keen observers and hyper-sensitive often having powerful reactions to human emotions. This can in turn can help individuals to practice mindfulness over their own emotions.
By watching and reflecting on the feedback given by these horses, equine therapy has proven useful as a supplemental part of cognitive therapy. With horses and the guiding help of a therapist, patients struggling with anxiety are better able to identify and correct negative patterns of thinking and behaving.3
- Building trust
Equine therapy is heavily centered on building a system of trust between all parties. In cases of substance abuse and mental health, however, individuals may struggle with giving and accepting trust from others.3 Horses, as honest, reciprocating creatures, can provide a stepping stone for building trust in future relationships.
Get the Help You Need Today
Are you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse? Golden Road Recovery is a detox and inpatient drug rehab center located in Los Angeles, California. To learn more about our services, contact us at (877) 372-0536.