a person hugs a horse after learning the benefits of using horses for mental health

Equine Therapy: Do Horses Help Your Mental Health?

In the world of mental health treatment, there are many unique ways to heal, among them equine therapy. But how does hanging out with horses help your mental health? A famous quote, commonly attributed to Winston Churchill and often repeated by horse lovers, says, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Any person who’s spent time with these beautiful, majestic creatures has likely experienced the joy they bring but may find themselves wondering why horses have such a positive impact on people.

Therapists can use horses for mental health and physical wellness by having their patients groom, lead, and interact with them. For instance, horseback riding can serve as an excellent muscle workout. Likewise, spending time with horses in a barn can be cathartic after a hard day. 

As horses have such a positive impact on human health, they’ve been incorporated into formal equine therapy programs at rehabilitation centers such as Recovery Ranch Tennessee. Being in the company of horses can produce many benefits, some of them listed below, that allow people to live enhanced, healthy lives.

Using Horses for Mental Health Improvement

Equine therapy is a form of experiential mental health treatment that integrates horses into behavioral and cognitive health therapy for personal development and guidance to achieve treatment goals. Patients can receive emotional support by interacting with horses in therapy, becoming more in touch with their feelings, and learning practical interpersonal and communication skills.

In equine therapy, patients get the opportunity to forge therapeutic connections with horses and improve in areas such as:

  • Self-esteem – Interacting with horses can increase confidence and reinforce feelings of self-worth because of the unconditional acceptance and support provided by the animals.
  • Social interactions – Through the collaborative relationship formed between the patient and the horse, therapists can help them build trust and communication skills to use in everyday life.
  • Problem-solving – Through activities such as grooming, leading, or haltering a horse, patients can learn practical problem-solving techniques that will help them in difficult situations.
  • Personal accountability – Working with horses can help patients develop self-discipline, personal accountability, and respect for themselves and others.
  • Stress management – Spending time around horses is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety in patients.
  • Mental clarity – Working with horses can have calming effects that help clear the mind. Patients may be able to process their thoughts better, leading to increased emotional awareness.
  • Moral responsibility – Through connecting with the horses, patients can learn responsibility and empathy for themselves and other living creatures.

Certified equine therapists conduct therapy sessions with clients and horses. During each session, patients have various guided interactions with the horse. Sessions may entail feeding, grooming, and leading your horse, but contrary to popular belief, riding horses isn’t typically a part of this type of therapy.

Lessons Learned from Equine Therapy

In many cases, individuals who struggle with trauma, drug or alcohol addictions, eating disorders, and other behavioral and mental health issues may lack healthy ways to identify and cope with their feelings, communicate with others, set boundaries, or overcome their fears. 

Using addictive substances or binging and purging may be their way of numbing sensations they don’t want to confront, like anger, sadness, anxiety, or even positive emotions like happiness. Rather than identifying and experiencing their feelings, they may blame others around them or think their way around their problems in a way that supports their habit.

Horses are emotionally in-tune animals with a unique way of reading human feelings and communicating. For instance, if you’re feeling aggressive or angry, a horse may mirror these emotions by becoming obstinate. Likewise, feelings of anxiousness may cause skittishness in a horse. The experience of observing a horse’s responses can promote self-awareness and help people view themselves more honestly. 

Such positive emotional development through interacting with horses can help people understand their behavioral patterns and recognize how they interact with others. Through equine exercises like haltering, leading, and grooming, people can learn to approach others with awareness and respect.

Equine Therapy at Recovery Ranch Tennessee

Horses are animals of majestic size and strength, which can intimidate some people and produce a perceived lack of control, feelings of inadequacy, and concerns of being hurt, which can ultimately relate to fears, unmet needs, and past trauma. It’s common for people battling addiction or mental illness to escape such feelings and fears, but people learn to process their emotions and tolerate them through equine therapy.

Recovery Ranch Tennessee is a safe environment where patients learn to confront and overcome their fears and perceived challenges while building confidence and trust. The ability to forge emotional connections and relationships with horses during therapy demonstrates the success of being willing to try something new and address one’s fears.

In addition to using horses for mental health in our equine therapy program, we offer other experiential treatment programs that intend to enhance patients’ healing, including:

  • Yoga therapy program
  • Meditation therapy program
  • Exercise therapy program
  • Psychodrama therapy program

Contact Recovery Ranch Tennessee by calling 1.844.876.7680 to learn about the evidence-based, holistic, and experiential treatment options we offer to clients. With the help of skilled, experienced, and compassionate specialists, people can confidently overcome addiction and mental illness and enjoy enhanced physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health.

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