Benefits of Equine Therapy at the Alternative to Meds Center
Horses and people have developed an exceptionally symbiotic relationship over centuries of human and equine interaction. Owners and aficionados alike often express deeply valued benefits from spending time “at the barn”, citing some surprising and perhaps unexpected perks.
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
– Winston Churchill
At ATMC we have explored how Equine Therapy can garner improvements in general health, mental health, and addiction recovery. We have therefore added the option of Equine Therapy to provide these additional benefits to our clients.
The Science Behind Animal Assisted Therapy and Stress Reduction
As far back as Florence Nightingale, medical practitioners have observed and documented the benefits of animal assisted therapy. In general, interacting with friendly animals can improve mood, reduce pain and decrease stress.
Scientific studies have shown that animal assisted therapy increases the release of natural body/brain chemicals that have a profound and measurable effect on reduction of stress, anxiety, pain relief, and brightened mood.
Any animal assisted therapy, including Equine Therapy, can provide an opportunity for the client who is or has been in care to switch things around, and become the “caregiver” for a change, which might be valued as a positive change.
In improving symptoms of stress, depression, pain, anxiety, and other unwanted conditions, animals have been found to be valuable assets. In fact, studies on the use of AAT have shown specific benefits to improved quality of life by reducing symptomology in the treatment of schizophrenia patients, those in treatment for drug addiction, and the reduction of pain in the treatment of oncology patients.
Reduced stress is one goal in Equine Therapy, along with the numerous other valuable benefits as cited above, which can be accessed through our program at ATMC.
ATMC provides clients many choices in treatment, including the option of scheduled Equine Therapy sessions, delivered by a trained and licensed therapist.
In Equine Therapy, we are not entertaining anything as hair-raising as jumping in the saddle and galloping around the ring, or bareback riding up a rocky incline. Participants won’t be doing jumps or Dressage or trying to be a rodeo champion. These would probably be considered quite stressful by any rider, even an accomplished one.
Equine Therapists select their horses for therapeutic use with care. Some criteria include that they are well-trained, people-friendly, calm and gentle in nature. At the outset, a professionally trained provider of Equine Therapy gives simple and clear instructions to the client, ensuring the person and horse have the best opportunity to develop ease, familiarity, and mutual bonds of affinity. Instruction and helpful demonstration involve the gentlest of actions such as guided grooming, correctly petting the horse, walking the horse, or perhaps helping to feed the horse. These simply executed, well-informed introductions allow the horse and its human partner to become warmly acquainted, familiar and easy with each other, which can usually occur within a very short time.
Horses have been regarded throughout much of human history as symbols of strength, and power. And they are BIG! Developing a friendly relationship with such a magnificent creature can open up a new appreciation for one’s own strength and power. This appreciation often accompanies a profound sense of security in realizing one’s own excellent ability to manage and direct something so large, yet remain absent of intimidation, fear or anxiety.
Equine Therapy allows a person in treatment at ATMC to take advantage of a longstanding heritage; the symbiosis between animals and ourselves. It is only in this modern age that we can begin to document AAT, and fully appreciate all its inherent health benefits.