What Is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy (or horse therapy) is the use of horses as a behavioral health therapy. Horse therapy helps promote emotional growth, patience, and individual development. This type of therapy has been effective in an assortment of treatment settings for adults and children alike. Recovering addicts and alcoholics who participate in equine therapy repeatedly feel several life-altering benefits. While working with horses is just a small part of an addiction treatment plan, it has proven effective in treating people who have not responded well to other addiction treatment therapies. It is an evidenced-based treatment (EBT). Activities for equine therapy include handling, grooming and other activities that are facilitated by a licensed behavioral health professional.
How Does Animal Therapy Work for Addiction Treatment?
Animal therapy programs are becoming more prevalent at various addiction treatment centers around the country. While specific programs may vary, they are typically rooted in helping clients develop a relationship with the horse using verbal and nonverbal cues. This is a learned skill that takes practice and encourages most clients out of their comfort zone. At the same time, equine therapy is frequently customized to meet the clinical needs of the specific client. It has proven effective in helping clients develop confidence, self-esteem, communication, trust, perspective, social skills, and limitations. Each client’s collaboration with the horse allows a trained therapist to monitor their behavior, emotive reaction and thought patterns in order to create healthy connections. In equine therapy, the addict develops a relationship with the horse while tending to their basic needs. This includes feeding, grooming, and physical activity. Clients may also learn how to saddle the horse properly as they learn the intricacies of caring for these beautiful horses. The Simple Path Recovery's equine therapy program is non-mounted, which means clients do not ride or “mount” the horse. Typically, most of the horses used for horse-assisted therapy are either too advanced in age or have injuries that prevent them from being ridden.
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Animal Therapy and Behavioral Health
Behavioral management is a key factor in an effective substance abuse treatment plan. Both drug and alcohol abuse are often accompanied by hostile or violent performances. As recovering addicts learn to connect with and care for the horse, they will also see how the horse responds to a different mood, tone, and body language. This reaction from the horse helps them understand what harmful behaviors and agreeable ways of communicating might be. Connecting and communicating with the horse helps foster respect – both for themselves and for the horse. This provides the ideal opportunity for teaching the importance of trust, which is a vital part of the therapy process. Individual reflection is also stimulated during equine therapy. The strength, grace and understanding inherent in horses could be the key that encourages clients to focus on their recovery and find lasting sobriety.
Equine Therapy at Lucky Horse Sanctuary
We operate our horse-assisted therapy program in partnership with Lucky Horse Sanctuary in nearby Coconut Creek, Florida. For over 10 years, Lucky Horse Sanctuary has been providing equine and animal therapy for children and adults alike for a variety of behavioral health issues, including addiction. They are a non-profit organization. You can learn more about Lucky Horse Sanctuary by visiting their Facebook page.