03 Oct Benefits of Equine Therapy
The horse-human bond has always been strong, and it stretches back to ancient times. Horses are intelligent, intuitive and sensitive animals that work well as companions. The Greek physician Hippocrates advocated interactions with horses due to health benefits. In the modern age, French neurologist Charles Chassaignac also saw the benefits of interacting with horses. He cited numerous physical benefits as well as emotional and mental benefits. That was in 1875.
Using equine therapy to treat addiction, mental health problems and even physical disabilities has become even more popular and common in modern times. Equine-Assisted Therapy is offered at many quality addiction rehab centers. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits.
The Physical Benefits of Equine Therapy
Riding a horse is generally part of equine therapy, and it’s also great exercise. The movement of your body while riding is similar to walking or jogging. This is one of the reasons it’s effective for treating those who can’t physically engage in vigorous activities like walking or running. The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) reports that Equine-Assisted Therapy helps increase flexibility, muscle strength and balance. This helps in the treatment of people with conditions like cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis and more. Equine therapy is effective in helping patients recover mobility and motor skills.
Emotional Benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy
If you’ve ever worked with horses, you know how intuitive and sensitive they are. Horses quickly pick up on a person’s emotional state and then respond to it. That’s why new riders are often told to be calm in working with their horse. A horse will become skittish and alarmed if they sense the same from their rider. One of the focal points of Equine-Assisted Therapy is showing how horses give honest and quick feedback versus what you might get from another person.
Riding a horse also teaches cooperation and engagement. Horses are large and very strong, but they also have unique personalities and needs that a person must learn in order to properly relate to them. When you interact with a horse, you quickly discover that it’s impossible to control them with physical strength. Instead, you must learn to interact and engage with them in a way where you cooperate with each other. This experience can help people understand what it means to have a healthy relationship with another person. It shows that such a relationship must include cooperation from both sides.
Equine Therapy Benefits For Trauma Patients
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health issue that can co-occur with addiction. People with PTSD often suffer from crippling anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks and depression among other symptoms. Studies show that Equine-Assisted Therapy can be an effective treatment for those with PTSD. One reason is the similarity between patients and horses. People with PTSD are often hyper-aware of their surroundings. Horses, as a prey and herd animal, are also hyper-aware of their surroundings. When someone with PTSD works with a horse, they often have to reach deep inside themselves to calm their hyper-awareness in order to transmit calm to the horse.
Equine-Assisted Therapy As Anxiety Treatment
Anxiety is an extremely common mental health condition where people often seek professional treatment to combat it. People with anxiety feel intense worry about past and future issues. They often feel inexplicably anxious in many normal situations where others do not. Mindfulness and living in the moment tend to be effective treatment strategies in combatting anxiety.
Working with horses is a great way to promote mindfulness and living in the moment. It’s generally impossible to be somewhere else worrying about the past or future when working with a horse. You must be focused and intently concentrated on a horse’s actions and reactions. As large, powerful, hyper-aware animals, horses require your full attention. It’s not safe to work with horses and not pay close attention to their behavior. The good thing is that horses reflect back what they detect in the person working with them. You automatically know if your behavior and attitude are not where they should be.
In equine therapy sessions, the handler will impress upon the patient to be calm and relaxed while living in the present moment.
Benefits of Equine Therapy For Addiction
Addiction often goes hand in hand with other conditions like anxiety, PTSD and depression. Equine-Assisted Therapy can help all of these conditions by promoting mindfulness, trust and positive feelings of self-worth. Many people struggling with addiction and other mental health disorders have isolated themselves from others and have low self-esteem. They are often trapped in a destructive cycle of negative thought patterns and worry about the future and the past. In order for addiction treatment to be successful, they must overcome negativity and learn to build healthy relationships with others.
Horses can be excellent teachers for people struggling with addiction. They can’t be controlled through fully physical means, so you must build trust and camaraderie with them. Horses also respond to non-verbal communication, which can be helpful for those who don’t feel like talking. Horses are honest and non-judgmental, which makes it easier for those in addiction treatment to interact with them. People struggling with addiction often believe that other people are judging them and shy away from human interactions as a result.
Types of Equine-Assisted Therapy
There are four main types of Equine-Assisted Therapy models:
• Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy
• Equine-Facilitated Learning
• Therapeutic Riding
Of these, therapeutic riding has the broadest range of use. It can be used for those with addiction as well as other mental health conditions. Therapeutic riding sessions offer many benefits for emotional, mental and physical health. It builds confidence and strength and is simply fun to participate in. People struggling with addiction are often searching for new hobbies and interests as they prepare to leave rehab. Horseback riding can easily fit this need.
Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy is most commonly used to treat addiction and other mental health conditions like PTSD. A psychotherapist typically works with an equine specialist in treating the patient. This type of Equine-Assisted Therapy is good for learning communication and relationship skills. It also helps people cope with trauma through the non-judgmental eyes of an animal.
Equine Therapy For Addiction At New Method Wellness
As a dual diagnosis treatment center for addiction and mental health conditions, New Method Wellness offers therapy programs with horses. Working with horses is more than simply riding. It helps patients learn to trust and cooperate with others. Many people struggling with addiction benefit from this type of holistic therapy along with more traditional programs. New Method Wellness offers a varied selection of both, including the following:
• Wilderness therapy
• Yoga therapy
• Family group therapy
• Cognitive behavioral therapy
• Art therapy
• Process group therapy
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, reach out to New Method Wellness today. We can give you more information on our wide range of programs to treat addiction and other mental health conditions.
For more information about our Wellness Methods call 866.951.1824 today!