At Seaglass, we have integrated equine-assisted therapy (EAT) into a part of our group therapy program. Every session is led by one of our therapists who assists guests in grooming, petting, feeding, haltering, or leading the horses. However, to maintain a safe and secure environment for all involved, guests generally do not ride horses during equine therapy.
What is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy is an experiential form of treatment between a guest and one of our therapy horses. While different methods can be utilized in equine therapy to meet the individual guest’s needs, the main premise of the therapy is to enhance emotional recognition and healing through the connection between horses and people.
Throughout equine therapy, guests are guided through safe, calming interactions with their chosen horse while under the supervision of their certified group facilitator.
Horses are experts in their ability to mirror human emotions and actions — which is why we utilize them in treatment for substance abuse disorders. As they reflect our own emotions it helps us become more cognizant of the way we’re feeling and acting. Self-awareness can be difficult in recovery due to the often overwhelming process, which is why we value techniques that enable guests to relax into the therapeutic approach and find growth while participating in equine therapy.
Therapy with Horses
Interacting with horses can enhance cognitive skills, which also assists in reducing stress and managing mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.). Horses are incredibly sensitive to the environment around them, causing them to be especially receptive to human signals. Overcoming hesitation and weariness to approach such an imposing animal can help guests to learn and build trust they may have lost or forgotten how to cultivate.
Equine therapy assists in the treatment of:
- Substance Use Disorders
- Anxiety Disorders
- PTSD and Trauma
- Stress regulation
- Eating Disorders
- Behavior Disorders
- Learning Difficulties
Equine-assisted therapy is shown to benefit those suffering from overwhelming levels of stress, sadness, self-esteem, and anxiety due to the innate connection between horses and people. Due to their sensitive nature, horses are able to sense the demeanor of our guests and react to their outward expressions of their feelings– essentially acting as a silent mirror. In addition, horses do not respond in the same way that humans do in that they communicate without judgement, making it more comfortable for guests to be vulnerable without fear of rejection. With our therapists’ assistance, these interactions often resemble a personal relationship, allowing our guests the ability to practice interpersonal communication.
What Happens in Equine Therapy?
During an equine therapy session, our certified group facilitators conduct these experiential groups similarly to other group sessions. That being said, our therapists challenge guests, presenting each individual with questions that promote mindfulness and introspection while interacting with the horses.
Our equine-assisted therapy (EAT) sessions consist of our therapists guiding guests through activities and encouraging open communication. Throughout the entirety of our horse therapy groups, the group facilitator upholds an open-forum for guests to discuss and express their thoughts and emotions.
Some common group prompts include—How did the horse react when you attempted to approach it? Why do you think the horse reacted to your actions in the way it did? What do you think is the best way to approach the horse next time?
In doing so, our guests participate in self-reflection, keeping their focus on the effects of their interactions while creating a thoughtful dialog to review the ways in which their modes of self-expression affect others. These horse-assisted groups instill mindfulness when interacting with others so that they may learn to identify and fix communication issues that may have resulted in conflict, promoting healthier forms of socialization.
Biofeedback in the Form of a Horse
Equine-assisted therapy oftentimes can be considered a form of Biofeedback therapy— a mind-body technique that assists guests in controlling involuntary bodily responses (muscle tension, heart rate, or blood pressure). Guests learn to better regulate their emotional and behavioral patterns to alleviate stress, eliminate negative thoughts, and amplify positive insight.
What are the Benefits of Equine Therapy?
- Builds trust
- Increases self-awareness
- Boosts self-esteem
- Grows social skills
- Improves impulse control
- Enhances problem-solving skills
- Improves verbal/non-verbal communication
- Reduces anxiety
- Lowers depression
- Decreases isolation
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