Woman hugging a horse in equine therapy for her mental health treatment

Equine Therapy: Does Hanging Out With Horses Help Your Mental Health?

In the world of mental health treatment, there are many unique ways that healing can be found, among them equine therapy. But how does hanging out with horses help your mental health?


A famous quote, commonly attributed to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and often repeated by horse lovers, says that “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 us.


Riding horses, interacting with them and taking care of them can be advantageous for our mental health. 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-assisted therapy programs at rehabilitation centers such as The 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.


Equine Therapy: What is It?

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. Through interacting with horses in therapy, patients can receive emotional support, become more in touch with their feelings and learn 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
  • Social interactions
  • Personal accountability
  • Moral responsibility


Certified, trained 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 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 bingeing 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 that have 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.


Overcome Obstacles Through Equine Therapy at The 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 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.


The 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 equine therapy, The Ranch offers other experiential treatment programs that intend to enhance patients’ healing, including:


Call The Ranch at 888.545.7672 to learn about the evidence-based, holistic and experiential treatment options offered to clients. With the help of skilled, experienced and compassionate clinicians, therapists and specialists, people can confidently overcome addiction and mental illness and enjoy enhanced physical, mental, emotional and behavioral health.

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