Equine Therapy: How Equine Assisted Therapy Changes Lives

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equine therapy near me woman hugging therapy horse

Equine Therapy – have you heard of it? It can be life-changing. It’s been around for a very, very long time, but it has only been gaining recognition in relatively recent years. Read on to learn more about where equine therapy came from, what it is, and how it is helping thousands of people worldwide.

Hippocrates, the Greek philosopher and the “father” of medicine, was among the first to write of the therapeutic value of horses. This was back in the times of ancient Greece. Elsewhere in Europe, horses have helped people with physical disabilities for the past few centuries.

What is Therapy with a Horse Called? Equine Assisted Therapy!

Equine Assisted Therapy, goes by the acronym of EAT. As with therapy dogs or cats, equine therapy involves interacting with horses in different ways. All of which can help manage or improve a range of physical and psychological conditions.

Depending on your location, equine therapy may be available for individuals or to participate in, in a group environment. The wider team of people involved in equine therapy will include those trained to work with both people and horses. Equine therapy centers may have therapists, counselors, horse trainers, and coaches to work with.

Just spending time with a horse can have benefits. It’s not necessarily about jumping onto the back of a horse and going for a ride. Horses are very sensitive and perceptive beings.

They have a unique ability to pick up on a situation and someone’s emotions and moods, and mirror someone’s attitude or behavior. Horses also have extraordinary levels of patience. Interacting with them can be a reflective and therapeutic process in many ways.

3 Ways in Which Interacting with Horses Can Be Therapeutic for Humans

There are physical benefits to interacting with horses, but there are also emotional and psychological gains.

  1. Trust: Horses are big, but remarkably gentle animals. Learning that you can trust a big and unfamiliar being is empowering. Horses chosen for equine therapy will have calm and steady attributes and personalities. These horses can help to build trust and confidence by interacting with something bigger than you.
  2. Self-Awareness: Horses sense and respond to how people are feeling and behaving around them. This means they can help people become more aware of how their behavior they may affect others. For example, if someone is aggressive, a horse’s reaction may be one of stubbornness. If someone is anxious, the horse too may be wary! When someone is calm, a horse is likely to react in kind.
  3. Respect for Boundaries: Horses work in partnership with people. They are also patient, but this doesn’t mean they won’t let you know if something is not okay with them! They may not speak, but they are able to communicate vocally and physically.

horse therapy woman grooming horse

This Form of Therapy is Very Beneficial to People with a Range of Disabilities!

Equine Assisted Therapy can help people of all ages, and be an effective part of a treatment plan for a range of mental health conditions. Some of these include:

  • Anxiety
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Stress
  • Substance abuse and addictions
  • Trauma

What Equine Therapy Entails

EAT is usually supervised by both mental health and horse professionals. The activities involved in equine therapy may include:

  • Acquainting: For anyone who’s never been around a horse before, they may spend time simply observing a horse. They may learn how to greet, pat, and stand alongside a horse. All of which can be soothing and help build confidence. Horses are herd animals – they like to hang out in the company of like-minded beings.
  • Grooming: The act of grooming a horse is a tactile experience that can help with forming a bond and connection with the animal. Horse grooming also involves using your hand-eye coordination, along with soothing body motions.
  • Haltering and saddling: Learning how to put a halter or bridle on, or saddle a horse helps with building trust. It also helps you think about how to plan and follow logical steps.
  • Leading: Walking alongside a horse and leading them can help with confidence, and responsiveness.
  • Riding: Equine therapy that includes opportunities to ride a horse can help foster independence and the ability to focus on motor skills.
  • Talk Therapies: Professional therapists that work with equine therapy will talk with you as well. They may use cognitive-based therapies to help you understand how working with horses may be helping you and your condition.

man with a disability taking part in equine assisted therapy

An Emotional Support Horse May Not Be An Option, but a Cat or Dog Could Be!

Yes, a horse can be an emotional support animal. However, obviously, for many people, a horse as a personal emotional support animal is not an option! Unless you live in a rural area with a bit of land or an area where suitable grazing is available, and emotional support cat or dog is probably a better option.

As wonderful as it would be for everyone to have an emotional support horse, donkey or pony, it’s simply not viable. One of the privileges of having an ESA is that you are allowed to fly with them in the cabin of a plane. After way too many incidents of people trying to get “out there” emotional support animals onto planes (think cows and peacocks) that airlines have tightened restrictions on the ESAs on their flights.

The same goes for ESA restrictions on access to accommodation. Most dog and cat breeds are welcome to fly with carriers or live in rented accommodation, but horses? No. Apart from the occasional miniature horse that acts as a service animal, horses do not make for great (or at least practical) ESAs.

Dogs and cats are the most recognized emotional support animals, and for good reason. We’ve lived with them as domestic companion animals for a very long time!

Both dogs and cats as emotional support animals offer therapeutic benefits. This happens through the care and attention you give them, as much as what they give you. The act of patting and grooming a pet is relaxing and calming! And not to mention all that unconditional love!

A dog or cat can provide alternative focus and distraction to help with symptom management. Both involve having some routine, responsibility, and structures in place in your life to take care of their need to eat, sleep, be healthy, and play.

The Doggone Good Stuff of An Emotional Support Dog

Dogs, generally speaking, are social animals. They like being in a pack and as their human companion, you will very much be a part of that pack! Depending on the size of dogs, most usually need regular exercise, an added bonus for your mind and body.

When you’re choosing a dog, think about whether you like a casual stroll around the block, or a full on run to make you feel good. Also look into their grooming needs. Some need daily grooming and others are more wash and go types.

The Caring of an Emotional Support Cat

Cats have a reputation for being independent. But this does not mean they don’t connect with people and demonstrate a great deal of care and affection! There are plenty of “company cats” that develop such a close bond with the people they live with that they will follow them from room to room all day long!

Getting an ESA is Easier Than You Think! All You Need is an ESA Letter!    

Emotional support animals don’t need any special training or documentation to do what they do. What people need is an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). This document says you have an emotional or psychological condition that is helped by your ESA.

An ESA letter can be used to support any applications to have your pet in rental housing. An ESA letter is also usually required when booking flights with airlines if you need your emotional support animal to come with you in the cabin.

How CertaPet Makes Getting an ESA Letter Easy!    

CertaPet makes it simple to formalize having the assistance of an emotional support animal in your life.

First, complete our free online pre-screening. This set of questions only takes about five minutes. You will receive notification of whether you may be eligible for an emotional support animal to help manage your mental health.

After that, we will ask you if you wish to proceed and be connected with a licensed mental health professional in your state. They will undertake the fuller assessment on whether an emotional support animal is right for you. If approved, an electronic ESA letter is usually issued within two business days.

form of therapy with horses girl hugging pony

Equine Therapy Near Me? How to Find Horse Therapy “Near Me”! 

Are you keen to see if the experience of spending time with horses may help you with your mental health? To find an equine therapy center near you, look through those listed with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH).

You can search the PATH website for centers by State, by types of activities, and by different types of disabilities.

Common Questions About Equine Therapy

Can a horse be an emotional support animal?

Is equine therapy for individuals or groups?

Does equine therapy involve riding a horse?

Where are equine therapy centers located?

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