Growing evidence supports the effectiveness of treatment with horses in a therapeutic environment. Studies have resulted in a body of literature supporting the therapeutic value of the human-animal interaction. Equine Assisted Therapy can help clients with depression, anxiety, ADHD, conduct disorders, addiction, trauma, eating disorders, spectrum and health difficulties, dissociative disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other mental health difficulties.
Read Full Article by Azmaira H. Maker Ph.D.
Unlike other equine health spa programs, which focus chiefly on horseback riding, the Equine Experience offers what it says is “a program designed to help participants challenge learned behaviors, correct false beliefs, and rediscover one’s authentic self.” This is accomplished not only by interacting with horses without any riding but in short periods of time. Tasks are simple and range from getting a horse to walk from point A to B without the aid of a halter and lead rope to picking up and cleaning each of a horse’s four feet.
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Animals can offer an extraordinary amount of emotional support. Beyond the pet-owner relationship that many of us have lovingly experienced, animals are sometimes used in therapeutic settings to help clients proceed through challenging emotional experiences.
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“…’What’s really interesting about this research is that it shows horses have the ability to read emotions across the species barrier. We have known for a long time that horses are a socially sophisticated species but this is the first time we have seen that they can distinguish between positive and negative human facial expressions,’ said Amy Smith, a doctoral student in the university’s mammal vocal communication and cognition research group…”
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“…Here comes the best part. They paired people with horses and measured their HRV [heart rate variability] in the same time. The result showed that people were able to relax and change their HRV in the presence of the horse. “It appeared that each person synchronized his or her particular HRV frequency cycle to match the horse’s specific frequency cycle.”
So this is why we want their company so much, we feel a strong urge to be around them because, unconsciously, we feel they might help us with as much as our lives. They are our healers. The more stressed we are, the more we seek them. The fact that later most of us is devoured by riding, jumping, competing seems even more sad and cruel now. Cruel both to the horse, but also to the man, who went to the stable to seek help and found violence instead…”
“Health professionals say horses can reflect our emotions to bring relief from addiction and stress” (McVeigh, 2012)
This article addresses the use of Equine Therapy with a variety of populations. It discusses the importance of the horse in the therapeutic process, outlining the unique healing properties the horse offers. It also references the research we do have regarding the impact horses can have on a human’s nervous system and brain waves.
McVeigh, T. (2012, February 25). Not just horsing around…psychologists put their faith in equine therapy. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/feb/26/horses-therapists-stress-autism-addiction?intcmp=239
“Those of us who own pets know they make us happy. But a growing body of scientific research is showing that our pets can also make us healthy, or healthier.” (Rovner, 2012)
This article discusses the use of animals in therapy and medical settings. It references research done through the years that shows the benefits of using animals for health and therapy practices. It references a particular equine therapy success story while outlining the potential biological reasoning behind this healthy connection.
Rovner, J. (2012, March 5). Pet therapy: How animals and humans heal each other. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/03/09/146583986/pet-therapy-how-animals-and-humans-heal-each-other
“So in other words it all comes down to the fact that we can’t change our craving nature but we CAN change the nature of what we crave.” (Francis, 2010)
This article discusses two main chemicals in our brains, serotonin and dopamine, both of which help us to feel satisfied and happy. When we have deficits of these naturally occurring brain chemicals we can suffer from mood swings, coping issues, depression, anxiety and more. This article links gardening to increases in serotonin and dopamine in the brain. It also includes links to other articles with more research to support these findings.
Francis, R. (2010). Why gardening makes you happy and cures depression. Retrieved from http://permaculture.com.au/online/articles/why-gardening-makes-you-happy-and-cures-depression
“It’s more about self-confidence and communication skills. There is a confidence that comes from succeeding in a new experience and doing something they wouldn’t ordinarily do.” (Ribeiro-de Sa, 2008)
This article discusses the use of Equine Therapy with adolescents and how it can be effective. It references a research study done on adolescents who attended Equine Therapy. It also touches on the reason why Equine Therapy trusts in the organic process of relationship between a horse and a human.
Finley, B. (2008, March 09). Horse therapy for the troubled. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/09horsenj.html?_r=0