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Horse Riding As a Popular Kind of Alternative Therapy for Mental Health

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Over the years, mental health has increasingly become a topic of concern. Every year, the percentage of the world’s population that is suffering from mental illness keeps rising. Records show that one out of every six individuals has one or more mental or related disorders. On a global scale, this means that at least more than one billion people are currently experiencing a form of mental illness with the most common cause being anxiety disorders.

However, the most common techniques involve one-on-one therapy with a psychologist, a pediatrician, or a neurologist. There are also some unique alternative therapy techniques like horse riding therapy, etc. These techniques have proven to be very useful in addressing some of the underlying or otherwise elusive components of mental health disorders.

Understanding Equine-assisted psychotherapy

Equine-assisted therapy is an experiential form of treatment that involves equines. It’s not used as a sole form of treatment but in cohesion with more traditional remedies. EAP is an interactive process featuring a mental health professional, an accredited equine professional, and a suitable horse. Together, they address the rehabilitative goals set by the mental health professional and client.

Horses act as a large biofeedback machine that provides clients and therapists with information on the client’s changing mood. Horses are very social beings who can teach some life skills better than humans. Horse riding holds immense therapeutic value for people with mental challenges.

Below, we will be discussing how horse riding can be used as an effective alternative therapy for mental health.

Improved interpersonal skills, assertiveness, and communication 

Many people suffering from mental health problems find it difficult to interact with other humans. Therefore, mental health professionals advise that animals such as horses be introduced to these mental health sufferers. 

Working with horses helps establish interaction patterns that they will eventually have with humans. Exercises like riding, leading, grooming, or halting horses teach people with mental illness how to approach others with awareness and respect. The patient, with the guidance of a mental health professional, learns to see the horse’s response through an objective lens.

Conquering fears

Horses are large and powerful creatures that can be intimidating to the average person. However, they are very accommodating animals and easy to be with. They allow patients to come to them with all manner of issues and imperfections, which helps them to relax, get comfortable, and face their fears. This will then enable patients to build a level of confidence that helps overcome a lot of their mental challenges.

People with mental health problems process any feeling of confidence quickly through finding comfort in their relationship with a horse. This empowerment further translates into other areas of their lives, which then allows them to live a more productive life.

A way to identify and Cope with feelings

A common fact associated with people dealing with mental health issues is the inability to cope with their emotions. They will turn to drugs in a bid to numb fear, anger, sadness, and even joy. The first step to successful therapy is learning to identify such feelings and cope with emotions.

Horse riding as a therapy is a powerful and effective way to help get in touch with thoughts and feelings. This is because some types of patients e.g., Drug addicts, have learned to live in denial for so long; therefore, they don’t know how to detect and deal with feelings.

Horses are powerfully sensitive to emotions and react to whatever feeling you are experiencing. For example, if a person is aggressive or angry, the horse tends to pull back. But when a person’s emotions are calm, free, and kind, the horse responds accordingly.

Unbiased and non-judgmental safe space

Mental health therapists and professionals offer a safe space for clients to explore deep emotional hurts and painful experiences. However, they are still humans, and this makes some patients uncomfortable to share their deepest thoughts openly. 

With humans, building therapeutic rapport and trust enough for the patient to be vulnerable can take a lot of time and might eventually be futile. But horse riding offers a unique safe space that helps the patient ease tension, providing a sense of peace. Horses react to the client’s emotions and behavior calmly and without any threat, bias, or judgment.

Building trust

The nature of a horse is soothing, gentle, and protective. They are also very straightforward in their communication without any manipulation or lying. They neither judge nor blame, and their presence can be the healing balm that patients need. The kindness of a horse can create trust and build happy memories for the client.

For instance, a person who has post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) as a result of childhood abuse might believe that a big and more powerful human or animal will hurt them. However, having a firsthand experience of a horse’s kindness and protective nature while riding can change that perception. 

This experience helps the person trust again and begin to open themselves up to relationships. They also acquire the ability to ask for help without seeing every powerful person as dangerous.

Valid considerations

Before exploring horse riding as an alternative therapy for mental health, consider the following factors.

● Proper timing:

The type of mental health challenge a client faces could determine if it’s appropriate or not to explore equine-assisted psychotherapy. They may first need to go through some time in rehab to develop some emotional, social, and intellectual skills before exploring EAP.

● Fear

As much as horse riding is useful in the treatment of mental health issues, the client may fear large animals. We could pin this down to the fact that animals may constitute a part of their trauma. If this is the case, horse-riding will spark the memory. A mental health provider must determine that a patient is fit for this kind of therapy. This can be determined through a thorough assessment of the client.

● Cost

Equine-assisted therapy is fast gaining traction as an effective alternative therapy for mental health issues. As such, it may not be covered by insurance benefits. The cost of exploring EAP will vary by the patient’s location and can range in price. So it is advised that you discuss this with your insurance company and your local equine therapy facility.

Final thoughts

Horse riding is an effective alternative therapy to help patients with mental health issues to interact better and conquer fear. They will also become self-aware, assertive, and build trust without judgment or bias, putting in mind some valid considerations. It’s best to practice EAP in a conducive equestrian estate or horse farm for effective outcomes.

About The Author

Dominic Beaulieu is an expert writer who specializes in creating various training and professional upgrade courses, materials and manuals. He mainly writes on development, digital marketing, design, business strategies, etc. This breadth of specialization allows him to write expert columns on the most pressing topics in today’s society and to specialize in creating  writing reviews in Pick The Writer and Writing Judge.


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