Equine Therapy: Horses Healing Children

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Many people might only see a horse as an animal to ride or see in a race, however, horses are like healers from Mother Nature. With the guidance of a specialized therapist, horses can provide a kind of therapy that has proven to help many disorders. Research has proven that people that interact regularly with horses can improve their overall well-being when receiving equine therapy. This research paper, Equine Therapy: Horses Healing Children, will demonstrate why equine therapy should be considered as a treatment for children with emotional and behavioral challenges.

According to the article on the website of Elements Behavioral Health, 5 Lessons People Can Learn from Horses in Equine Therapy, by Meghan Vivo, Equine therapy is beneficial to identify and manage feelings. This kind of treatment permits patients to get in touch with their thoughts and feelings. Vivo commented that horses usually recognize feelings and act upon them. When looking at the horse’s response, not only people are able to gain awareness of themselves, but they also have the opportunity to see themselves from a simple and honest perspective. Most importantly, people improve in their communication abilities as well.

Vivo also commented that studying a horse’s actions can help individuals know how people surrounding them behave and the reaction their conduct has in them. In equine assisted activities, patients and therapists are able to talk about their feelings and observations (Vivo, 2011). Being in a hospital or rehabilitation center can be depressive for any patient especially children. Children should be out having fun and enjoying being kids. Why not consider equine therapy where children can have fun and treat their disorder at the same time, especially in a relaxing and natural atmosphere with a friendly animal.

Working with horses also helps with setting limits. Horses demonstrate when someone has over passed limits since they are able to teach balance. Like with people, being too controlling will not work with horses, neither being too submissive. Unfortunately, this will make it difficult to manage the horse. This treatment helps to overcome fears too. Usually, people are afraid that the horse will act indifferently, to the point of even attacking them. This causes people to understand to accept and process the emotion. Finally yet importantly, Vivo mentions that horses help build trust because they are kind animals with peaceful vibes. According to Meghan, horses are honest animals that do not lie, manipulate, judge or blame others. Patients normally feel a sense of healing by just being close to a horse (Vivo, 2011).

Meghan Vivo interviewed Dede Beasley, an equine therapist at The Ranch Center in Tennessee. In her article, Meghan states that Beasley mentioned that just like people, horses are social beings. Their flock systems simulate those of human’s systems. Meghan also mentioned that at The Ranch, people who have struggled in their treatment process have made great improvements with equine assisted activities. Vivo reported that research has validated efficiency of equine therapy. Research has proven that this successful treatment lowers blood pressure and heart rate, relieves stress, and reduces anxiety and depression indications. Meghan also pointed that equine therapy supports the decrease in addictions and mental health disorders, therefore, developing several key skills to maintain a positive, healthy life (Vivo, 2011).

In an article by Jan Brinn, The Science Behind Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapeutic Riding – Part I, Brinn comments that the horse’s movement as a person is riding, gives them coordination, self-confidence, and balance. Brinn mentions that the movement and unique pace of a horse is similar to that of a human. Therefore, when riding a horse, the rhythm and motion creates a therapeutic effect for the person. This happens because the body increases strength through its adjustment to the horse’s pace. Jan says that psychologists have found that equine also has psychosocial and emotional benefits as well. Jan also states that equine therapy is used by professionals such as physical, occupational and speech therapists. For example, the words expressed when directing a horse are considered therapeutic for a person with speech challenges (Brinn, 2013).

In an article found on PsychCentral, Study Suggests that Equine Therapy is Effective, Claire Dorotik-Nana describes how studies has proven the value of equine therapy. This specific research was conducted by Alison Selby of the Child and Family Guidance Centers in Plano, Texas. Claire shared that Selby examined the results of 104 studies, and found that 9 out of 14 reports demonstrated positive outcomes when working directly with horses. These positive outcomes included: decreased behavioral, psychological, physical, and psychosocial challenges. Claire comments that besides these outcomes, there was a significant positive overall effect on mood in equine related activities (Dorotik-Nana, 2013).

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus demonstrated a lasting reduction in bad temper and other positive social and communication impacts on children with autism through a research conducted using equine therapy (Kelly, 2018). In the article by David Kelly, Children with Autism Spectrum Have Immediate and Long-Term Benefits from Therapeutic Horseback Riding, Researchers Show, Kelly mentioned that the study was conducted to prove the efficacy of therapeutic horseback riding (THR). The research was conducted with 127 children between the ages of 6 to 16 years.

This research was published in 2015 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The study demonstrated that children participating in 10-weeks of THR resulted in significant improvements in irritability, hyperactivity, social skills and word fluency compared to a group of children that met at the riding center to only learn about horses. These group of children had no direct interaction with horses. After this, researchers conducted a 6-month follow-up of 44% of the participants from that initial study.

The study demonstrated that the initial benefits of 10-weeks of THR in this same population can have significant and most importantly, lasting benefits in children. Specifically, this follow-up study revealed that the THR group maintained their low levels of irritability, but not hyperactivity in comparison to the children who just learned about horses. When researchers examined just the THR group, the results showed that children maintained their primary improvements in social communication and word facility. The research provides evidence to demonstrate that THR may be a mediation that causes longer-term maintenance of initial benefits gained from equine therapy (Kelly, 2018).

Many organizations provide equine therapy in the United States and other countries. Two of the organizations that provide equine therapy services are the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). Jan Brinn says that their programs view psychological benefits when individuals work with equine because they discover fears, anxiety or mistrust. In the article, Jan also talks about The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH). Brinn mentions that since 1969, this association has provided equine therapy certification, education and resources.

Brinn comments that a significant amount of backed up and scientific evidence has resulted highlighting the benefits of therapy assisted activities for people with disabilities. For example, the 4-H Proud Equestrians Program in collaboration with PATH, certifies qualified instructors for 4-H recreational riding programs for patients with disabilities. Another facility that knows about the benefits of equine therapy is the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center in Augusta, Michigan. A volunteer of the Cheff Center explained in an article that the confidence and coping skills gained when learning how to ride a horse, are skills that are able to pass on other areas of life (Brinn, 2013).

Unfortunately, equine therapy is not offered in many countries. Therefore, children in those countries are limited in their recuperation options. Even worse, equine therapy is costly and many families are not able to afford it. Equine therapy is offered only in countries like Canada, Holland, Mexico, and United States. According to the article, The Cost of Therapy, on the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy by Cherie Hammer, Equine therapy is costly. This kind of therapy ranges between $150 and $300 per treatment session. Cherie says that the time of the session is around 50 minutes, including ground activities. Even though equine therapy is very costly and it is not available in every country, it has many wonderful benefits for children and parents should make an effort to somehow reach this approach (Hammer, 2011).

After researching the multiple benefits of equine therapy, parents should consider this therapy as an effective alternative to treat their children’s disorders or disabilities. Equine therapy should be considered for children with emotional and behavioral challenges, because it has proven that it can help many disorders. Research has demonstrated that equine therapy is a treatment that fuels a patient’s body. People that interact regularly with horses can improve their overall well-being when receiving equine therapy.

Even though equine therapy can be costly, there are several organizations that provide help with the costs. Why not invest in an option that is natural and in a friendly and fun environment for the children. It is amazing just to think how an animal can help in so many ways. Who would have thought that a big animal like a horse that sometimes looks intimidating could provide a secure and loving space for children? Overall, providing such important opportunities to help improve a disability or disorder such as autism, phobias, physical disabilities, and other mental and emotional issues.

It is important to create awareness of this kind of treatment through the many therapists providing this service. Therapists should provide information to parents about the multiple benefits of equine therapy. Therapists should inform individuals of all ages to consider this alternative treatment. A primary purpose is to let society know that a horse is much more than an animal; with the help of an experienced trainer, a horse can help improve or cure many disorders and disabilities. It is important to advocate for children and this type of therapy. Many more organizations or therapists should provide free equine therapy to children and their families.

Works Cited

  1. Brinn, J. (2019). The science behind equine-assisted activities and therapeutic riding – Part I. MSU Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/the_science_behind_equine_assisted_activities_and_therapeutic_riding_part_i
  2. Dorotik-Nana, C. (2013). Study Suggests that Equine Therapy is Effective. Psych Central. https://blogs.psychcentral.com/equine-therapy/2013/01/equine-therapy-effective-a-new-study-suggests-so/
  3. Hammer, Cherie. (2019). “The Cost of Therapy – NCEFT National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy” NCEFT National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy. https://www.nceft.org/2011/09/the-cost-of-therapy/
  4. Kelly, David. “Children with Autism Spectrum Have Immediate and Long-Term Benefits from Therapeutic Horseback Riding, Researchers Show.” CU Anschutz Today, CU Anschutz Today, 30 Oct. 2018. www.cuanschutztoday.org/children-with-autism-spectrum-have-immediate-and-long-term-benefits-from-therapeutic-horseback-riding-researchers-show/.
  5. Vivo, Meghan. “5 Lessons People Can Learn From Horses in Equine Therapy.” Elements Behavioral Health, 12 Dec. 2011. www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/addiction-recovery/lessons-equine-therapy/.

Cite this paper

Equine Therapy: Horses Healing Children. (2021, Aug 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/equine-therapy-horses-healing-children/

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