15 Nov What is Equine Therapy? Exploring Benefits of Human-Horse Relationships
Many people find recreational horseback riding pleasurable and relaxing. However, many individuals are unaware that there’s a therapeutic form of horseback riding [often integrated with psychotherapy] called “equine assisted therapy.” In recent years equine therapy has garnered attention as a potential intervention for the treatment of PTSD, troubled youth, and even autism spectrum disorders.
From a historical perspective, equine therapy was found therapeutic in the late 1940s when implemented in Scandinavia to help those with polio. In Greek literature, the usage of equine therapy dates back to 600 B.C. In the 1960s, a group called “NARHA” (North American Riding for Handicapped Association) began testing equine therapy in the United States.
Their goal was to help improve quality of life via equine therapy among individuals with disabilities. NARHA eventually underwent a name change to “PATH” (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) to expand therapy to anyone in need of therapy. Many have found equine therapy to be beneficial for improving prognoses of disabilities, physical conditions, and mental illnesses.
What is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy is generally more complex than hopping on a horse and going for a ride. In certain therapy sessions, an individual may not even make physical contact with the horse. Generally an individual will work with a skilled psychotherapist or instructor that will come up with various therapeutic goals to accomplish for the client.
The goals established between client and therapist may initially be relatively easy. An example of something easy would be for a client to make peaceful contact with the horse. A goal of moderate difficulty may be to lead the horse in a specific direction or help guide the horse to a standstill. This generally involves complex thinking, forming a connection (bonding) with the horse, and trust (between the client and horse).
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