Equine therapy is a form of experiential treatment that has been used for centuries to improve physical and emotional healing. Research has confirmed many benefits of equine therapy, such as lowering blood pressure and heart rate, relieving stress, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and helping people struggling with addictions or mental illness. Equine therapy also teaches life skills that a horse can teach better than a person. People with a variety of abilities can benefit from therapeutic horseback riding.
If a person can't sit on a horse, horse and cart programs are an option. The physical action of these activities helps people to develop strength and balance, as well as to improve spatial awareness. Both riding and caring for horses are useful for improving physical endurance and dexterity, which is a common goal of occupational therapy. Equine-assisted learning is another way to benefit from equine therapy.
This approach teaches and supports life skills through guided interactions with horses. Managing and working with horses provides opportunities to learn fundamental life skills, such as trust, respect, honesty and communication. Horses primarily use non-verbal communication and are attuned to human behavior, which can help participants learn a greater sense of self-awareness. This, in turn, can reveal behavioral patterns and provide an opportunity to think in a new way, improving self-confidence and self-esteem.
Equine therapy has also been found to be beneficial for people with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. There are some specialized programs for veterans that incorporate elements of equine learning and horse-assisted therapy. Equine therapy is generally a component of a comprehensive treatment plan, intended to complement conventional approaches appropriate to the specific situation.Equine therapy dates back to ancient Greek literature when horses were used for therapeutic riding. In addition, since equine therapy is usually goal-oriented, it allows the group to work together to achieve a common goal.
Most participants in Equine Therapy benefit from the unconditional acceptance offered by the horses they work with.