Equine therapy, also known as equine-assisted therapy, is a type of experiential therapy. When engaging in equine therapy, you interact with horses. Equine therapy usually does not involve riding horses – participants will feed, groom, and lead horses when engaging in equine therapy. There will often be both a mental health professional and a horse professional present at equine therapy sessions.
Horses can often help participants ‘tap into’ their inner emotions. When engaging with horses, the horses will mirror the participant's body language and feelings – anxiety, calm, stubbornness, and more.
Usually, the goals of equine therapy are to address emotional and behavioral challenges outside of a traditional treatment setting, and to develop and hone specific skills. Through participating in equine therapy, individuals can enhance their:
- Self confidence
- Problem solving skills
- Communication skills
- Ability to face their fears
Equine therapy sessions usually occur at a facility specially designed for horseback riding and horse interactions. The person participating in equine therapy will work with their mental health counselor to set goals for the session; every session will likely look different. Then, the person participating in equine therapy will engage with the horse in a meaningful way, whether feeding, grooming, or simply looking at the horse.
Horses are non-judgmental creatures: they are adept at mirroring the body language and behaviors of humans. This is a unique type of interaction that helps participants understand their own actions and needs; equine therapy often leads to discussion and processing of feelings. Equine therapy also helps to foster emotional growth.
Equine therapy has been found to be helpful for individuals with: