If you ever talk to someone who owns a horse or rides consistently, you will see their eyes light up and they will usually express a feeling of tranquility when they are around horses.
This psychological effect has not been overlooked by the medical and treatment community and here at Mariposa, we are one of the select counseling centers in Orange County that offer equine therapy. When integrated into treatment programs for adults and teens who are being treated for substance abuse, addiction, behavior disorders, and other related conditions, we have found this treatment to have a profound impact on recovery.
What is Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT)?
In general terms, when a patient has any interaction with a horse it is an equine assisted activity. It is a treatment that focuses on rehabilitative goals but bound by a medical professional’s direction. The treatment is not run by a local horse club, church group, or trainers but by a licensed therapist. You may be surprised but it rarely involves riding the horse.
Why Do We Use Horses for Treatment?
Being around a horse can be intimidating. Typically, over 1000 lbs., they’re big! But horses are herd animals and therefore are very sensitive and carry strong emotional skills. They feed off the herd and use those emotional skills to survive. When a single horse in the herd becomes scared, the whole herd reacts.
How does this translate to our therapy? It translates into an emotional response and connection to humans. The horse will reflect the emotion of the patient. Horses never hide their emotions so if you approach with anger, they will react with apprehension or stubbornness. Approach with an open, warm heart and they will open their souls to you.
Because of this reflection, horses can help people heal from a variety of psychological issues.
How Equine Therapy Works
Drugs and alcohol are famous for detaching and numbing the feelings of an addict. The addict is so used to this numbness that when they get clean they do not know how to identify or react to these reborn feelings. It can cause them to feel frustration and confusion.
The mirror interaction with the horse will allow them to “see” the emotions they’re carrying because the equine will directly reflect what they feel from the patient. This is an enlightening experience for the person and can greatly assist in the healing process.
For children of abuse, it can create an incredible release of emotions. As they learn to interact with the horse and horse begins to trust the person, it can lead to tears and expressions of emotion like “I’ve never been treated this kindly by something so big.”
If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out to us today!