While many experience equine therapy as a pleasant way to spend an afternoon at their local stable, it is also one of the most effective ways to address anxiety and depression. The gentle presence and unconditional love of an animal can have a profound effect on people’s mental health, helping them learn to identify what makes them feel anxious or depressed as well as how to cope with stress in more positive ways.
Horses Are Much More Than a Quiet Ride on a Sunday Afternoon
At our Villa Oasis San Diego rehabilitation facility in California, horses provide much more than a quiet ride on a Sunday afternoon. These horses are very social animals, and they enjoy interacting with people and are also extremely adept at reading people’s emotions. This makes them great at helping people who have experienced trauma. Since most people have experienced trauma at some point or another, this can be immensely valuable for everyone involved.
Equine-Assisted Therapy Has a High Success Rate in Treating Anxiety
In recent years, many research studies have been conducted on the benefits of animal-assisted therapy. A study published in the research compendium Plos One found that 100% of veterans with PTSD who received equine therapy reported “very positive perceived benefit” from this therapy. The benefits included a reduction in anxiety and depression.
In addition to helping with anxiety and depression, equine therapy has also been shown to help people with social skills, communication skills, and even physical health issues such as pain management.
There’s no doubt that the use of horses in treating anxiety and depression is an effective method. How exactly does it work, though? In short, equine therapy works by providing patients with an outlet for their emotions. For example, if someone is feeling stressed out from work or home life (or both), they may not be able to express themselves verbally due to feelings of shame or guilt about their situation. However, when working with horses, there’s no need for words at all! The horse will read the person’s body language. Through this nonverbal communication process alone they can begin healing from whatever negative thoughts are plaguing their minds.
Equine Therapy Offers a Distinctively Holistic Form of Healing
Through its unique approach, equine therapy offers a distinctly holistic form of healing. Holistic therapies are those that treat the whole person, including the body, mind, and spirit, rather than just one aspect. The goal of holistic therapy is to restore balance within the individual so they can function at their best. It’s about treating the whole person, not just their physical health or mental well-being but also their sense of purpose, belonging, and connection with others.
Equine Therapy Can Also Help With Communication Skills
Those who struggle with anxiety may have a hard time communicating with others. It can be difficult to open up and express their feelings. Horses are good listeners, so they may make it easier for people to talk about what’s going on in their lives. Horses can help them learn how to be more open and honest with themselves, which will make it easier for them to be more open and honest with others. Horses don’t expect or demand anything from their human companions; rather than criticize or judge people, they accept people for who they are. This acceptance helps people feel comfortable opening up about their issues and problems.
Equines as Therapists Have Many Advantages
There are several reasons why horses are better than human counselors. First, horses do not judge. They simply accept you as you are, which is a relief for anyone who has ever been told they were wrong or bad by someone else. This can help to raise self-esteem and reduce anxiety in the long run.
Secondly, horses are nonverbal. Someone’s words don’t have to be perfect or grammatically correct when talking with them! As long as they say something that makes sense and feels genuine, then they’ll understand whatever it was that the person wanted to express.
Thirdly, horses aren’t human, either. This means they won’t try to impose their own feelings onto people, which can happen during therapy sessions. They won’t make assumptions about things based on what other people have told them already, which also happens sometimes with human therapists.
Participants in Equine Therapy Become Intimately Familiar With Their Horse’s Cues
Equine therapy participants become intimately familiar with their horse’s cues, mannerisms, and patterns of behavior. This familiarity can ultimately help the person become better at interpreting the nonverbal communication of other humans.
The body language of horses is often compared to that of humans. Horses have been known to communicate happiness, sadness, or fear through their facial expressions and body postures. They are also able to show love and affection for those around them in a way that’s similar to humans. While horses may not be able to use words, their facial expressions and other behaviors allow us to know how they are feeling at any given time.
In addition to being able to communicate feelings through facial expressions and gestures, such as stomping, horses also communicate more subtly than humans do. They make sounds such as snorts or neighs, which can mean different things depending on the situation. Becoming adept at reading horses translates not only to an increased feeling of safety but also a wider repertoire of relational skills people can use as they re-enter the world.
Horses can provide a powerful source of healing, both physically and mentally. When you are around horses, your natural instinct is to feel calm and relaxed. Horses have been used as therapy animals for thousands of years, and their healing abilities have been well-documented by numerous studies over the past decade. If you are interested in using equine therapy as part of your healing journey, whether that be a mental health journey or an addiction recovery journey, we can help. Our horses are highly therapeutic and ready to assist you as part of your treatment plan. For more information, contact us here at Villa Oasis San Diego; we are ready to help. Please call (619) 373-9792.