The relationship between man and horse is an old one. It is said that horses were first domesticated around 6,000 years ago, after which humanity has all but relied on them to drive civilisation forward. Horses have transported us, pulled our wagons, and helped us win wars. But now, they are helping us overcome mental disorders.
Equine therapy may sound like a joke about a horse seeing a therapist, but it’s no laughing matter. Spending time with horses is indeed a relaxing experience; and much like playing at a casino online, it can be very fulfilling too. And now, it turns out that being around these 4-legged creatures has other benefits that are being used in the medical world. From physical injury treatment, to recovery from mental disorders, equine therapy is an under-appreciated form of treatment. Best of all, it’s natural, and it’s relatively easily accessible to all.
The term hippotherapy refers to equine assisted treatment of physical ailments. The discipline only became official in the 1960s, but it turns out that this form of treatment has been used since as early as the fifth century. Hippotherapy uses horseback riding as a means to strengthen certain muscles, as well as encourage faster recovery with certain injuries.
The treatment is likewise used to aid in the recovery of strokes, as well as to treat sensory ailments, such as those associated with cerebral palsy. Those who choose hippotherapy for their treatment almost universally sing its praises.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
A far more recent type of equine therapy is EAP, or equine assisted psychotherapy. This refers to using horses as a way to help with behaviour or psychological issues. The practice is still new, and is not yet practised widely. But reports say that the therapy has been beneficial to a number of patients.
A pioneer of this form of therapy is Hallie Sheade, a professional counsellor who has recently opened an equine-based treatment centre of her own. Called Equine Connection Counselling, the operation is based in Texas, and has already been receiving a great deal of attention. Hallie is quick to sing the praises of her treatment, saying that EAP is a new and exciting form of treatment that is quickly growing in popularity.
Horses As Therapists
The benefit of horse riding for physical ailments is easy to understand. Patients use their bodies to interact with the horse, thereby working the muscles and areas of the body that need attention. But as far as horses treating mental ailments goes, there is not yet any solid research that shows the benefits in a clear way.
Alexa Smith-Osborne, a professor at the University of Texas, studies equine assisted therapy. In an interview she made it clear that there are no established connections between equine therapy and psychological treatment, but that does not mean that there are no benefits to be had. As with canines, she said, which are also used in therapy, horses are highly intuitive and sensitive animals, which make them perfect for assisting patients on a mental level.
Horse Companions Help Heal
In talking about her experiences as an equine therapist, Hallie Sheade went into detail about how intuitive horses are concerning human emotions. She explained that in many cases her horses seem to be aware of a patient’s feelings, even before she is. This sensitive nature, combined with the unbiased and non-judgemental nature of animals is exactly what patients’ need, she explained.
So it seems that horses are natural born therapists, and perfectly suited for the job. Those lucky enough may soon find an EAP centre near them, assuming that the practice spreads.