Horse therapy is a unique form of animal assisted therapy. It is an experiential therapy, meaning that progress is made through hands-on activities. Horse therapy has been beneficial for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder and even substance use disorder. Horses seem to have an uncanny ability to reveal dramatic truths to people, and victims of domestic violence are no exception.
How Horse Therapy Works
Horses are used in a variety of therapeutic settings, but when used during psychotherapy, they are not usually ridden. Instead, a few deceptively simple exercises performed on the ground can make a world of difference.
In addition to the horse, a psychotherapist is part of every session. The psychotherapist sets a task for the human to complete with the horse. At the end of the challenge, the psychotherapies confers with the person to talk about any insightful takeaways.
For example, in the beginning the biggest hurdle most people have to overcome is feeling scared of the horse. Horses are large, powerful creatures that could easily harm someone, but they also happen to be incredibly gentle, and of course those used in horse therapy are the gentlest of all.
For domestic abuse victims, seeing people who look like their abuser can be a trigger, and this “looks can be deceiving” lesson is an important first step to confident living. It also awakens something inside of them when they realize they can overcome their own fear and be greatly rewarded for it.
Inner Nature of Horses Heals Humans
Horses are herd animals that naturally want to form bonds with the creatures around them. It makes them feel safe. Whether we realize it or not, we as humans want to feel safe in the same way.
But first, trust has to be won, and it’s a two-way street. The person has to behave in a certain way to make the horse trust them. If they are too nervous or aggressive, the horse will back off. Seeing how one’s own emotions are reflected in the horse is the first lightbulb moment for many people new to horse therapy.
Domestic abuse survivors can learn so much more from horses, including how to control fear, how to be more assertive, how to be confident, and how to connect with others.
They can even identify areas in their own lives that need work. That’s where a good psychotherapist can play a role in creating the right challenges and drawing the right analogies to help people get the most out of horse therapy.
If you’d like to experience the power of horse therapy yourself, please contact The Ranch today for more information.