Equine therapy, also known as equine-assisted psychotherapy, is an experience based therapy that utilizes the interactions between horses and patients. Equine therapy increases self-esteem, emotional awareness, empathy, stress tolerance, problem-solving skills, assertiveness, flexibility, impulse control, independence, self-regard, self-actualization, social responsibility, and interpersonal relationships.
Equine therapy uses the general care of a horse as a way to identify behavior patterns, emotional processes and social interactions. Activities include, leading a horse, feeding, haltering, and grooming.
The general goal of equine-assisted psychotherapy is to help patients develop skill sets and refine thought and emotion processes. The skills that can be positively affected by equine therapy include accountability, self-confidence, responsibility, problem-solving skills, and self control. Another interesting fact about equine therapy is the ability of the therapist and patient to identify and address a broad range of behavioral and emotional challenges which can be seen through the interactions with the horse.
The benefits of equine therapy are derived from the interaction of the patient and the horse, with assistance from a therapist. This type of therapy is effective because horses do not judge the patient and have no ulterior motives or preconceived expectations. Horses are also effective at mirroring the behaviors and attitudes of the people they are working with. Equine therapy increases self-esteem and other positive feeling and thoughts because the horse, patient, and therapist have a unique opportunity to observe tendencies of engaging in self-deprecating, defeating and negative thoughts and actions. These observations can lead to realizations that provide a great foundation for both discussing and processing these thoughts and feelings after equine therapy has ended.