The world can be divided into two kinds of people: horse people and non-horse people. The funny thing is, all horses are people horses.
Also referred to as horse therapy or equine-assisted psychotherapy, equine therapy consists of direct interactions between people and horses. It is an evidence-based therapy that has shown efficacy in patients with depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, autism, and other chronic mental disorders.
The interactions include grooming, feeding, haltering, and other assorted task-oriented groundwork that slowly yet surely builds a relationship between human and horse. Equine therapy can be fun, hard, and sometimes frustrating, but often illuminating.
For instance, JourneyPure clients will build obstacles for the horses to jump or otherwise negotiate as part of their equine therapy. Sometimes the JourneyPure team will task clients with building an obstacle course, one that represents their own recovery struggles, using equine-related tools like poles and buckets.
“We’re not supposed to lead anyone to the discovery,” said Stephanie Adams, clinical director at JourneyPure At The River. “They’re writing that story for themselves.”
On days when it rains, clients can choose between working with the horses inside the arena or feeding, grooming, or just observing the horses in the barn. On days when the weather is downright miserable, rendering transport clients are treated to what the team calls an equine movie—Eight Seconds, Flicka, The Horse Whisperer, that sort of thing.
An EAGALA Program
At this point, it should be noted that none of JourneyPure’s equine therapy activities are referred to as horsemanship.
EAGALA stands for the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, which is the international nonprofit for professionals who incorporate horses to address mental health and personal development needs. The EAGALA Model involves no riding or horsemanship, making it safe and effective for clients.
Horses As Teachers
Horses have been utilized to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans, reduce recidivism among convicts, and aid troubled teens. Equine therapy has also been shown to be a highly effective form of therapy in the treatment of substance use disorder and related mental health issues.
Equine therapy is based on the belief that a horse can introduce a new side of ourselves to ourselves. With their lack of ego, their inability to lie or judge prematurely, and their ability to pick up on body language as a true indicator of intention, horses are incredible teachers.
As Tim Hayes, an internationally recognized equine therapist, wrote in his 2015 book, Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal, horses “teach us that when we’re not getting what we want, we’re the ones who need to change; either what we’re doing or who we’re being.”
“It’s amazing, how many people come into it saying, ‘I hate horses,’ and by the end of their stay here it’s their favorite activity,” Adams said.
Treatment at JourneyPure At The River
We’re proud to offer equine therapy at JourneyPure at the River to assist our patients regain mental and physical strength. If you or a loved one are seeking treatment, call today and our admissions team can help.