Equine therapy is a type of therapy that uses horses to help people with mental and emotional issues. Horses are extremely sensitive creatures that can be attuned to the emotional needs of people and can be very therapeutic. Equine therapy has been used to help people with a variety of issues, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction.
In equine therapy, the horse is used as a metaphor for the individual’s emotional state. Through interacting with the horse, the patient can process and express emotions. The therapist helps the patient to identify the emotions that are being felt and to explore ways to manage them.
This type of therapy helps the person to gain insight into their emotional state and to develop better self-awareness and self-regulation.
Equine therapy can also help to build trust and communication skills. Horses are sensitive to the emotions of humans, so working with them forces the patient to be honest and open. This can help the patient to build trust with the therapist and to communicate more clearly and effectively.
Equine therapy is also beneficial for developing social skills. Working with a horse is a team effort, so the patient must learn how to collaborate and cooperate with another living creature. This can help the patient to develop trust and communication skills.
In conclusion, equine therapy is a powerful tool that can help people with mental and emotional issues. Horses are sensitive creatures that can help people to identify and process their emotions. Equine therapy can also help to build trust and communication skills, as well as to develop social skills. If you are struggling with mental or emotional issues, equine therapy could be a beneficial treatment option for you.
The Horse Wisdom Program is the signature program of the Equine Psychotherapy Institute and is done as six individual sessions or a one-day workshop.
This workshop is ideal for personal development and/or skills building. Six key themes are explored – awareness, boundaries, thinking, feeling, relationships and facing life’s challenges. The program can also be customised to suit individual needs.
Payment is required prior to your session
- 24 hours notice- no fee applies
- 12 hours or less – 50 % fee applies
- On the day – 100% fee applies
One step removed:
Often we can approach complex trauma issues in a roundabout way, partnering organically with the horse as a conduit to healing as opposed to having to lay it all out on the table in a clinical setting. Healing happens in relationships and horses can assist with the building that in self and with others.
Horses are non-judgmental and do not have preconceived notions or biases. This can create a safe space for individuals to explore their emotions without fear of being judged.
Horses are highly intuitive animals and can sense the emotional state of their human partners. Through their feedback, they can help individuals learn to regulate their emotions and become more self-aware.
Trust and respect:
Horses demand trust and respect from their human partners. Working with them can help individuals develop these qualities and transfer them to other relationships in their lives.
Equine Therapy often involves physical activities, such as grooming or leading a horse, which can help individuals develop a greater awareness of their own bodies and the impact of their emotions on their physical state.
Horses provide a unique opportunity for individuals to engage in metaphoric learning, where the horse is a symbol of the individual’s struggles or challenges. This can help individuals gain new insights and perspectives on their issues.
How does Equine Therapy differ from traditional talk therapy?
We may explore clinical topics, but participants are generally outside or in a barn-like setting that is welcoming and engaging.
Nature of the therapy:
Equine therapy involves interacting with horses as part of the therapeutic process, while regular counselling does not typically involve animals (there may be a bird or a dog, but it is still the norm to not have animals in a clinical setting- I’m hopeful that will change).
In equine therapy, individuals learn through hands-on experiences with horses, while in regular counselling, individuals learn through talk therapy and self-reflection.
Equine therapy will often focus on non-verbal communication with horses and somatic work (for example exploring felt senses), which can help individuals develop greater self-awareness and improve their ability to communicate effectively in all areas of their lives. In regular counselling, verbal communication is the primary mode of expression. Thankfully, however, somatic therapies are gaining popularity in the counselling room.
Focus on relationship-building:
Equine therapy focuses on building relationships with horses, which can help individuals improve their ability to form and maintain healthy relationships with others. Regular counselling may also address relationship issues, but the focus is not necessarily on building a relationship with the therapist.
Can Equine Therapy be used as a standalone therapy or in conjunction with other therapies?
Yes and yes. Equine therapy is a beautiful approach on its own but can absolutely be combined with other therapies. Be aware that there may be a disclosure agreement required between yourself and other practitioners so that they can co-create a healing/treatment plan.
In my own practice, I’ve worked with clients’ teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists. It is important to be clear on what your goals are and why you’d like to take an integrative approach.
Can Equine Therapy be used to treat specific mental health conditions?
Here are a few examples:
Equine therapy can help individuals with anxiety disorders develop coping mechanisms, improve emotional regulation, and reduce anxiety symptoms.
Equine therapy can help individuals with depression increase self-esteem, develop positive relationships, and engage in physical activity, which has been shown to be helpful in managing depression symptoms.
Trauma and PTSD:
Equine therapy can help individuals who have experienced trauma or have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develop trust, self-awareness, and emotional/physical regulation skills.
Equine therapy can be helpful in working through addiction by providing a non-judgmental environment for individuals to explore their emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Equine therapy can be helpful for individuals with behavioural disorders improving social skills, self-esteem, and emotional regulation.
Those who experience autism, ADHD, or are HSPs, for example, can benefit from working with horses in that they engage in physical activity and develop focus and attention, develop social skills, increase emotional regulation, and improve sensory processing.
What safety measures are in place during Equine Facilitated Wellness sessions?
Anytime we work with horses that is a risk factor. However, when you participate in equine therapy you should be working with an individual who has had a lifetime with horses or has completed a practicum in working with these magnificent creatures.
Most facilities that offer equine therapy have a very structured safety plan, as well as appropriate insurance in place.
Things like emergency protocols, consent/confidentiality best practices, appropriate horse training/selection, and regular veterinary and farrier care for the horses (a healthy horse is a happy horse).
Look to see whether facilities/practitioners’ partner with horses or use horses. Partnering implies that the safety of the horse is paramount. Using implies that the horse is a tool to get a job done.
Often when working hands-on horses, you will be required to wear a helmet, closed-toe shoes and well-fitting clothing so that there is nothing that will risk being caught on a fence, equipment or tack for example.
How do the horses contribute to the therapeutic process?
Again, I could talk about this for years. Just being around this accepting sentient being is good for the soul. Horses are highly intuitive, and I’m regularly surprised by the many ways they show up in a session.
Here are some common ways in which horses contribute to the therapeutic process:
Horses provide non-judgmental feedback to the client’s behaviour and emotions. Horses are highly attuned to nonverbal communication, and their reactions to the client’s actions and emotions can be explored by the therapist to provide insight into the client’s feelings and behaviours.
Mirror the client’s behaviour:
Horses can mirror the client’s behaviour, providing a physical representation of the client’s emotional state. For example, if the client is anxious, the horse may become agitated, whereas if the client is calm, the horse may become relaxed.
Working with horses can involve physical activity, which can be helpful in reducing stress, improving physical health, and increasing self-esteem.
Working with horses can help clients build trust and develop positive relationships. The client must establish a relationship with the horse based on mutual respect and trust, which can be transferred to relationships outside of the therapy session.
Equine therapy involves experiential learning, where the client learns by doing. This hands-on approach can be particularly helpful for individuals who may struggle with traditional talk therapy.
Can Equine Therapy be beneficial for people with no prior experience with horses?
Absolutely. In fact, many individuals who participate in equine therapy have no prior experience with horses.
It is important to note that equine therapy is facilitated by trained mental health professionals and equine specialists who are experienced in working with both horses and clients. Please ask for their credentials. They will provide guidance and support throughout the therapy session and ensure that all safety measures are in place.
What happens if I am afraid of horses?
I’ve worked with a ton of people who were afraid of horses. Many of them were horse people who had had a harmful experience and needed to move through it.
Not all equine therapy work is hands-on, we can work at a distance and lead up to hands-on work. There is also no pressure to ride.
Most equine therapy work is done on the ground.
Fear can be a beautiful thing to work through in a session. These skills are transferable to everyday life. equine therapy is certainly about growth and comfort and there are so many opportunities for both.