Let That Pony Run: The Benefits of Equine Therapy

Let That Pony Run: The Benefits of Equine Therapy

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Whether on the open prairie or a groomed farm, a galloping horse exudes a sense of confidence and freedom that is unmatched. Horses and horseback riding not only bring us waves us nostalgia for a simpler past but also a sense of unbridled self-determination. The benefits of incorporating horses into substance abuse therapy are significant. Equine therapy, also known as horse-assisted therapy, provides stability in our environment while also giving us the therapeutic benefits of working with horses.

Like any other animal therapy, horse-assisted therapy is based on the positive therapeutic benefits we glean from working with these majestic creatures. Similarly to house pets, when we work with horses, we can establish a personal connection with them. This connection can carry through to our therapy, allowing us to ground ourselves in the simple love and affection that animals give us. In short, when we work with horses we establish a healing animal-human bond that has the power to transform our mental and emotional states.

When we work with horses as a treatment method, we still engage in traditional interventions as well. Yet equine therapy offers us a unique and dynamic approach to treatment that can lead to deep emotional healing. This type of addiction treatment can lead to the improvement of self-esteem, the development of trust, and improved communication skills.

How Horse-Assisted Therapy Can Assist in Addiction Recovery

According to Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, in a randomized controlled trial, researchers found that horse-assisted therapy is an effective complementary therapy for substance use disorder (SUD). Complementary therapies are therapies that enhance the results of traditional interventions when employed alongside them. Equine therapy, or horse-assisted therapy, is one of the many complementary therapies that can be found at First Steps Recovery.

When we enter treatment for substance abuse, we often have issues with trust and self-confidence. One of the best ways to regenerate these qualities is by establishing strong bonds with others. In individual and group talk therapies, this is done with groups of people with similar backgrounds. When we engage in equine therapy, we establish that same connection, but through a human-animal bond. This provides us with safe and supportive conditions to face our trauma, rebuild healthy connections, and develop new skills.

When we engage in equine therapy and establish this human-animal bond, we can then find ourselves experiencing new kinds of connections outside of therapy. These connections carry through our lives and give us feelings of empowerment and personal transformation. There is nothing like the unconditional love and trust we can receive from our animal friends. This nonjudgmental companionship gives us space for self-reflection and can help facilitate breakthroughs in treatment and recovery.

Taking the Reins With Equine Therapy

Dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects of combat can leave some veterans paralyzed. These veterans have also experienced the many benefits of equine therapy. Often, veterans recovering from their time in combat situations find great comfort in the company of animals. Horses provide military veterans with a strong, supportive companion who can hold them up as they address trauma and readjustment challenges.

Equine therapy provides all of us with a safe space to process our emotions, build trust once again, and develop the vital coping skills we may lack. Working with horses, we have an opportunity to regain a sense of purpose. This relationship can result in renewed self-confidence and improvement in other relationships. In short, the impact that equine therapy has on our treatment outcomes simply cannot be underestimated.

Finding Love for Yourself in Love for Animals

Equine therapy offers other benefits as well. This modality can help us with stress relief because horses have a peaceful demeanor and are sensitive to our stress levels. As we relate to the horse, this interaction regulates our stress response. If the program includes riding, an added benefit is the cardiovascular activity we can receive from that. We may also feel less isolated and alone as we form a connection with horses, trainers, and other riders.

Equine therapy can provide powerful therapeutic benefits as it provides us with a unique opportunity to care for and connect with other living creatures. Caring for and connecting with animals helps us shift toward establishing a relationship of empathy, responsibility, and nurturing with ourselves and others.

Horses as Healers: The Wonder of Equine Therapy

Whether it is due to the love we exchange with our equine brethren or some other inherent quality, equine therapy promotes healing. Horses are known for their intuitive senses, which allow them to offer empathetic companionship to those in substance abuse treatment.

People who regularly work with horses report having increased emotional regulation, empathy, and self-awareness. Those people may also find it easier to engage in self-reflection, emotional expression, and building new relationships. In short, equine therapy provides us with an unparalleled catalyst for personal growth.

How Equine Therapy Accelerates the Healing Process

The transformative nature of equine therapy also plays a significant role in accelerating the healing process. In many ways, horse-assisted therapy allows us to take the reins of our own treatment and seek healing within ourselves. This offers us a dynamic and experiential approach to our treatment plan at First Steps Recovery.

Activities such as grooming, leading, and riding horses allow us to develop skills based on caring and compassion. When we do these things, we are giving up our time to care for another creature. This gives us a tremendous sense of accomplishment and establishes a deeper emotional connection with these majestic creatures.

The power of the human-horse connection allows us to experience profound transformations. In doing so, we break free from the limits addiction has placed upon us and truly begin to walk the path of lifelong recovery.

Equine therapy, often called horse-assisted therapy, allows individuals in treatment and recovery to work with horses as part of their treatment plans. As a holistic intervention, equine therapy helps to heal people on all levels. Establishing a connection with these majestic animals can help those who are recovering from substance abuse to rebuild trust and establish safe relationships through the human-animal bond. If you are in treatment or recovery from substance use, you may also benefit by engaging in equine therapy. In equine therapy, you will bond with the horse by communicating with it and taking care of its needs. Call First Steps Recovery today at (844) 489-0836 and discover whether equine therapy is right for you. 

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