Equine Therapy Treatment Center

“Healing is not just about the body; it’s about the mind, spirit, and environment.”

Equine-Assisted Therapy at Aviary Recovery Center

Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction often requires a multi-pronged approach to be successful. Our Equine Assisted Therapy Program works with other therapies to help clients build positive relationships with horses. Once the bond has been established, it is a powerful tool for building self-esteem and creating a sense of responsibility.

About Equine-Assisted Therapy

Equine-assisted therapy is not new. Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.), known as “the Father of Modern Medicine,” wrote about it over 2,000 years ago. He wrote about “riding’s healing rhythm.” In ancient Greece, horseback riding provided a sense of well-being to people with incurable illnesses.

Modern equine therapy was brought to the public’s attention in 1952 when Lis Hartel won the silver medal for individual dressage at the Helsinki Olympic Games. Ms. Hartel had to be helped on and off her horse but credits equine therapy as helping in her recovery from polio.

How Equine Therapy Works

The idea behind equine therapy is that having clients interact with a horse (under the supervision of a trained physical and mental health professional) complements traditional treatments to support recovery.

Why Work with Horses?

Horses are especially effective partners for humans in therapy. Consider the following:

  • They are extremely intelligent. Horses have evolved to be extremely sensitive to their immediate environment to avoid predators. They constantly analyze and react to a person’s body language and nonverbal cues. The feedback received from the animal is invaluable to someone in treatment for substance use disorders (formerly called substance abuse) who is looking to increase confidence and self-esteem.
  • They are large, powerful animals. Horses are immediately noticeable by their size and impressive stature. When clients approach one of these animals, they must also consider how they face other big things and the best way to do so.
  • They have distinct personalities. Wild horses live in herds, and each member has a distinct role within this social structure. Like humans, horses have personalities, moods, and attitudes. They can be playful or stubborn – just like people!

Equine-Assisted Therapy for Veterans and First Responders

Even though horses can’t speak, they are very wise about sensing the emotions of others. For this reason, they make excellent therapy partners for veterans and first responders struggling with PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder).

One of the symptoms of PTSD is hypervigilance, which makes the affected person feel as though they are full of nervous energy all the time. The person feels as though danger is about to strike at any moment. The horse will be aware of this feeling during an equine-assisted therapy session.

PTSD also tends to make those living with it emotionally numb. As a result, they are socially withdrawn. Some veterans and first responders experience depression symptoms as part of their PTSD. They are unable to experience pleasure in their interactions with others. Many veterans and first responders find this aspect of PTSD the most challenging aspect to cope with. Unlike other humans, the horse doesn’t judge the person who is in therapy; it just accepts the energy the client is emitting.

To interact effectively with the horse, the client must learn how to relax, trust, and connect with the animal. This skill is something clients can put in their toolbox and apply to their lives outside of sessions. Veterans and first responders can rebuild their confidence in being able to connect with others on an emotional level to have healthy, positive relationships.

Equine Therapy in Drug Rehab

Equine therapy is helpful for clients in drug rehab. Often, people turn to drugs as a way to cope with their feelings. Simply being around horses is something that can be soothing and may help to relieve stress and anxiety.

In the early days of receiving treatment, it may be challenging to open up to a therapist about the reasons why drug abuse started. Working with horses and being in their nonjudgmental presence may help a client to trust their therapist.

A client’s relationships with family and friends are usually on the casualty list when thinking about the consequences of drug addiction. The addictive behavior creates difficulties in relationships and may result in a client having low self-esteem. Equine therapy can be an excellent way to start rebuilding trust by establishing a positive relationship between the client and a horse. The client’s self-esteem will begin to improve as a result.

Frequently Asked Questions About Equine Therapy

Q: Do clients learn to ride horses as part of an equine-assisted therapy program?

A: Some clients may eventually ride horses, but this is not necessarily the main focus of equine therapy sessions. The goal is to have the client develop a positive relationship with the horse, which is used as a bridge to a positive relationship with their therapist. From there, the client can work toward developing positive relationships with others in their life.

Q: What happens during an equine therapy session?

A: Each session is geared toward a client’s individual needs. They may include:

special groundwork exercises with the horse grooming the horse talking to a counselor while doing a horse-related activity

A client may have sessions that don’t involve a lot of activity and focus instead on just being close to the horse. Discussions with the counselor may start around the horse and the activity the client is engaged in. Gradually, the client is encouraged to open up about similar issues in their life.

Certified Staff at Equine Therapy Treatment Center

All Aviary staff providing equine-assisted therapy have been certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (Eagala). All certified professionals have completed an on-site course. After completing the course, each candidate must complete and pass a post-training assessment and submit a professional portfolio to be eligible for Eagala Certification.

Eagala Certified professionals are required to conduct themselves to a high practice standard and comply with Eagala’s code of ethics.

At The Aviary, equine therapy is part of our holistic approach to substance abuse treatment. We help our clients in recovery become who they want to be.

Source for equine therapy for veterans: https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/news/horse-therapy-helps-veterans-overcome-trauma