For this week’s Tuesday Therapy Notes, I want to take a look at equine therapy, a form of therapy that involves teaching someone to care for, groom, and ride a horse. The idea is that building a relationship with the horse can help reduce anxiety and depression and improve overall emotional health.
While there are incomplete data evaluating the effectiveness of equine therapy, anecdotal evidence suggests it can be very helpful. The process is also thought to help make individuals with mental health conditions less impulsive.
While there are many places where one can ride a horse, equine therapy is done with a specifically licensed mental health professional. The mental health professional is there to help guide the individual in their relationship with the horse, and can help them reflect on that relationship.
The reason that horses are good for this therapy is because they are sensitive to emotions of others. This comes from the fact that in the wild, horses travel in herds, and are also at risk of predation from apex predators like wolves. This gives them the ability to be sensitive to, and respond to, the emotions of someone under going therapy.
Anecdotes I’ve heard say that these relationships can be the first time an individual opens themselves up to trusting and caring for and about another living being. In other words, it can establish the baseline compassion necessary for healing to begin, which of course is the goal of any therapeutic program.