Equine Therapy for Mental Health
At Renewal Behavioral Health, we hope to open the minds of individuals by offering different types of therapies they don’t usually see. One of these types of therapies is that of equine therapy. Equine therapy uses matured horses to help those struggling with mental health disorders develop a bond with an animal they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
We want to expand the possibilities of therapy and also bring awareness to how effective horses are at helping to heal the wounds of mental health disorders. Our staff is on standby to answer your questions about our equine therapy and how you or a loved one can enroll in the program.
What is Equine Therapy?
This form of therapy encompasses treatments that generally involve horses to help promote both mental and physical health.
Animals and humans are often able to connect with each other on a deep level. This is normally through an owner-pet relationship. Although this is the most common type of connection animals and humans have, they can also build trust in therapeutic settings.
In therapy, animals can help individuals heal mentally. A popular type of this type of therapy is that of equine therapy, which is when horses are used.
Horses are known for being gentle, loving creatures. They bring about a calmness that those struggling with mental health sometimes lack. Through the process of taking care of and riding these horses, patients will form a bond with the animal.
History of Equine Therapy
Equine therapy has been around for centuries, with the earliest recordings of it being used dated back to 460 BCE. During the 19th century, doctors in Germany started recommending horseback riding as a way to calm what we now know as anxiety attacks. This transformed into a movement in Europe, where equine therapy grew to help aid physical and psychological ailments.
In the 1990s, equine therapy became a staple in many mental health facilities teen rehab programs. From this, the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Center was developed in 1999. This organization helped lead the development of professional standards for equine therapies across the world.
How Does Equine Therapy Work?
By working closely with our therapy horses in treatment, patients will develop trust towards the animal. Because of their backgrounds or past trauma, this may be a big step for their mental health. At Renewal, we want to help each of our patients grow in ways they never thought possible.
Bonding with our horses allows patients to reduce the effects of trauma-related symptoms by decreasing the amount of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone that can have a part in causing symptoms like depression and anxiety. It can also help individuals cope with their dissociative disorders, lower their blood pressure, and even release the hormone oxytocin. This helps them experience feelings of positivity and connection towards the animal.
Benefits of Equine Therapy
It is very common that after a few equine therapy sessions, patients will start to notice changes happening. They can begin to feel a stronger sense of their surroundings, as well as being able to overcome negative feelings more easily.
The benefits of equine therapy are vast. Some of the ways this type of therapy we offer at Renewal can help our patients are:
- Better communication: Although horses cannot talk, they help patients with developing better nonverbal communication skills. Horses are able to react to mood swings and cues, so patients will have a better understanding of how that affects those around them.
- Increased confidence and self-esteem: Because they are helping to care for these animals, patients’ confidence and self-esteem levels will skyrocket. They will also become more motivated to take on new projects because of this.
- Social skills development: By strengthening their relationship with their horse, patients will also be able to strengthen their relationships with those around them.
- Connections: Horses do not recognize mental disorders or health problems. They accept humans for who they are. Because this may be the first time a patient experiences this type of acceptance, they will form a strong connection with the horses.
- Improved self-image association: Negative self-talk is very common among those struggling with mental disorders. Horses allow our patients to view themselves exactly the way they are and accept their flaws.
- Feelings of trust: Mental health disorders can often stem from past abuse and abandonment, making it hard to trust humans. Horses allow our patients to develop a bond of trust while riding them.
- Focusing on themselves and others: By taking care of the horses on a weekly basis, patients will understand the importance of maintaining relationships. This will carry on into their life after therapy is completed.
Types of Equine Therapy
There are three types of therapies that horses can be used when treating mental health at Renewal. Our licensed equine-assisted therapists will coordinate times and different plans through these therapies to help patients. These therapies include:
Equine-assisted Psychotherapy or EAP is conducted by our licensed therapists and horse specialists. They will address specific psychotherapy goals for each patient through equine therapy. This therapy uses the horses as tools to mirror the experiences that an individual may have gone through. No prior experience with horses is necessary for this type of equine therapy.
Equine-Assisted Learning Therapy
This type of therapy will allow patients to develop skills they may have lost when developing their mental health disorders. Therapists will use our horses to help them with communication, respectfulness, trust, honesty, etc.
Hippotherapy is used for speech therapy and occupational therapy. This helps our patients with balance and coordination, strength, and focus while riding the horses.
Am I A Good Candidate for Equine Therapy?
Our specialists at Renewal Health will evaluate your current mental health state upon arrival at our facility. We will then be able to determine whether or not our equine therapy program may be a good fit for you.
If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we are here to help. Please feel free to contact us through a phone call or message, and we will respond to you as promptly as possible. It’s time to take back your life and begin a new chapter.