Horses are intuitive, magical creatures that make excellent therapists. Interacting with horses has a calming influence that can even heal.
In recent years, an ancient form of therapy has been revived, becoming an extremely popular form of therapy among patients suffering from ADD, autism, down syndrome, underdeveloped mental abilities, depression and other mental health issues. This therapy is known as equestrian therapy, or E.A.T (equine-assisted therapy). The idea behind this form of therapy is to use horses to help patients deal with their symptoms and enable emotional growth.
While this form of therapy is relatively new and on the rise in modern times, it was once popular in ancient Greece, as documentation shows the use of horse riding for therapeutic benefits as early as 600 BC. However, since then it had seemingly disappeared, until it was reintroduced to the medical community in the late 1960’s.
So why exactly are horses used for therapy? The horse’s special ability to be immediately responsive to the actions and behavior of the horse rider helps the patient form an emotional connection with the horse. Due to the horse’s ability to behave and respond similarly to their riders and caretakers, the patients are able to develop emotional growth and stability.
Activities of this therapy include riding, caretaking and even training horses. The patients are able to develop various skills, simply by learning how to listen to instructions and executing them. Another great benefit from this horseback therapy is that the patients don’t actually feel like they are in therapy and they enjoy the experience and allow themselves to open up. Amongst youth, this form of therapy has been found to be very beneficial for the development of social skills, communication skills, building self-confidence and learning to understand limits and boundaries. Also, training with horses helps them learn to control their impulses and manage their emotions. All of these great benefits are extremely important for troubled youth, with mental disabilities of various sorts.
There are various different techniques of horse-related therapy, but they all consist of active training of cognitive therapy and emotional development. As the medical community is becoming more conscious and aware to the various types of mental instability or disabilities, equestrian therapy is becoming more relevant than ever, and therapists everywhere are starting to take notice.