By: Angel N. Skinner, Ph.D.
Define Equine Therapy/Introduction
I’m sure you were just as caught off guard as I was after Spring Break 2020; when the novel coronavirus was first introduced as a global crisis. History will never forget the emergency stay at home orders, shutdown, school closures, and panic stocking that came shortly after the first announcement of the novel disease. Due to the largely unknown nature of the virus and lack of coordination between federal and state officials, millions also received conflicting messages concerning the spread of the virus, as well as, how to effectively stay safe during such troubling times. As guidelines such as social distancing and mask wearing became more and more standard by each state, families, relatives, friends, and loved ones could only cope with the major changes imposed upon society.
Today, more than ever, we have realized the importance of stability that we previously had taken for granted. Most of us have experienced our entire lives shift in just months. Some are struggling with unemployment, others are contemplating divorce, millions are suffering from anxiety, and all of us are impacted by this global pandemic. Though it has not been an easy year, we can all learn to adapt and choose to successfully survive; All hope is not lost - one place you can turn to is Equine Therapy. Equine-assisted therapy (EAT) comprises a range of treatments that involve activities with horses and other equines to promote human physical and mental health. The need for EAT activities cannot be overemphasized especially in the new (Covid19) America where healthy lifestyles and physical well-being remain the order of the day. EAT activities have proven to foster occupational and emotional growth in individuals experiencing attention deficit disorder (ADD), Anxiety, Autisms, Cerebral Palsy, and Depression just to name a few. Since many family members are experiencing the aforementioned conditions and are unable to regularly visit hospitals due to Covid19, one thing that they can do is to engage in equine’s activities.
What Are The Benefits of Equine Therapy?
Benefit 1: Improvement in Mental Health – Equine-assisted psychotherapy integrates horses into therapeutic activities such as grooming, feeding, and leading a horse to help a person suffering from mental instability to develop emotional regulation, self-confidence, and responsibility.
Benefit 2: Anxiety is a serious emotion! Approximately 40 million 18+ Americans suffer from anxiety; making it the leading mental condition in the country. Of those Americans, just over a third receive treatment. In the face of a highly contagious global pandemic, this number may have doubled by the end of this year. Equine therapy is highly beneficial in this area, because people experiencing anxiety-related conditions that do not meet clinical diagnosis can work with horses during the therapeutic process to stay focused and develop the ability to sense danger cues and respond in a sensitive way.
Benefit 3: Equine-assisted therapy can be useful for people suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) This condition most commonly affects military veterans; however, it can be caused by severe traumatic occurrence. Equine therapy sessions can be a safe haven for these individuals; as it helps them to bond with someone and feel that connection that was once lost.
Benefit 4: Feedback and Mirroring – since horses are incredible observers and are sensitive to emotions, they mirror the client’s emotions and connections that allow the client to feel safe.
Benefit 5: Children with autism can benefit from equine therapy because of the motor, emotional, and sensory feelings that come with riding a horse. Other than verbal expression, children interacting with horses can communicate physically by hugging, brushing, and patting them which subsequently leads to the enhancement of their social and communication skills.
Equine therapy offers substantial benefits to both children and adults experiencing virtually any mental health issues. Equine therapy also helps to promote the stability of everyday people in our society. Engaging in activities such as EAT will help improve your child/children's mental well-being, provide them with an emotional bond, and the social communication skills that they would need to overcome the challenges they face during COVID-19.
Verywell Mind (22, June 2020). Using Equine Therapy as Mental Health Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/equine-therapy-mental-health-treatment-4177932#benefits
The Anxiety Treatment Center. Accessed November 15, 2020. Available at
ASDF (15, November 2020). How Your Autistic Child Can Benefit from Equine Therapy. Retrieved from Https://Myasdf.Org/Media-Center/Articles/How-Your-Autistic-Child-Can-Benefit-From-Equine-Therapy/
Facts & Statistics. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics#:~:text=Anxiety%20disorders%20are%20the%20most,of%20those%20suffering%20receive%20treatment