Horses, with their powerful posture, expressive eyes and unmistakable elegance, have captivated people for centuries. We love these animals and although we don’t really need them to work for us anymore, we like to keep them around.
In recent decades we seem to have found a new use for these gentle animals in the form of therapy with horses. Although this is gradually gaining popularity, there is evidence that therapy with horses has been around for a long time. People have discovered that it is beneficial for their well-being to work with horses or to be in the vicinity of horses and they have turned it into a form of therapy.
The use and usefulness of horse therapy
There are different types of horse therapy and each therapy uses a different way of dealing with horses. This can be feeding and taking care of horses, walking or riding horses. These activities have been proven to be beneficial for different groups of people such as veterans with PTSD, teenagers with behavioural and psychological problems, and also children with autism.
Horse therapy would help children with anxiety attacks, depression and eating disorders. People with drug problems and addiction would also benefit.
Teenagers who follow horse therapy learn the following important lessons:
- How they can be responsible by taking care of the horses.
- Patience, because it takes a while to gain the confidence of a horse.
- Self-awareness, they get to know themselves better by dealing with horses.
- Communicating. By giving the horses commands and leading them, and also by better understanding their own emotions.
How to help horses
If we look at the success of horse therapy, there can be no doubt that we can learn a lot from horses. But why do horses help people heal?
Well, researchers, therapists and other people involved in horse therapy believe that part of that answer can be found in the personality of horses. Horses are prey animals. That’s why they feel more comfortable in a group. They are also very attuned to their environment, including the emotional state of the people around them. This allows them to distinguish friend and foe. This makes them very intuitive and sensitive to our emotions. They sometimes discover feelings that we ourselves were not aware of.
Moreover, horses never pretend. They are frank and honest animals and they reflect our emotions and give us immediate feedback. For example, if you are angry or irritated, a horse will avoid you. You need time to gain a horse’s trust and while you are working on that and looking at the animal’s reactions, you become aware of how your own emotions influence others.
Most people are able to relax near horses as they begin to enjoy their company. Unlike other forms of therapy, horse therapy is less stigmatized and people who try it will be able to open up quickly because horses are never judgmental or critical.
Although horse therapy is still a growing sector, we cannot deny its effectiveness, especially when it comes to treating people with mental health problems.