If you know anything about horses, you will know horses and stress don’t mix. This is part of the power of equine therapy. As a veteran explains it when sharing her experience, the relationship between the person and the horse is like a mirror. When a person feels stressed, so does the horse. It is an instant reminder to try and find some calm, to get one’s breathing a little slower, and to approach the interaction with the horse with a more peaceful presence.
When interacting with an animal, one is more likely to be aware of their mood and their own reactions to things. They are more in tune with themselves. The impact an animal can have to merely get one’s attention, with the push of the nose, or a sound, can pull a response from the person. Even unintentionally, the person will naturally try to meet the need of the animal. This, in turn, takes the focus off of the pain, or the sadness, or whatever may be the focus of the person’s thoughts for that day and redirects it to the animal.
What Can Equine Therapy Treat?
Equine therapy offers benefits for people living with physical limitations such as paralysis or pain, allowing those who have difficulty or pain with walking to ride and stretch muscles with less aggravation on their bones. Working with horses, being outside in nature, and focusing on something outside of self all contribute to the overall success of equine therapy.
Another unique feature that it offers is the inclusion of family. Often sessions are held for the person working consistently with the horse to share their progress and introduce their family to the horse. This brings great joy and a sense of pride to all involved in the process.
For those living with depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, mood disorders, substance use disorders (SUDs), as well as other mental health illnesses, equine therapy offers connection, emotional support, and nurturing factors. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA) shares that equine therapy is a common traditional practice for American Indian and Alaskan Native Tribes. Specifically, equine therapy, along with other traditional practices, is being used to treat the opioid crisis among the tribes.
Equine Therapy Specifically for PTSD
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration shares how veterans are learning strength, overcoming depression, and identifying new motivations in life by working with horses in the program. Using equine therapy for the treatment of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) seems to be focused on the connection that occurs during grooming.
A bond is formed during riding and caring for the horse. Building the relationship with the horse is what is described as the most significant impact on those living with PTSD. Also mentioned was a reluctance to open up in a sterile doctor’s office-style setting. Many veterans did not comfortable until they were able to try and open up with the horse, with completely different surroundings.
Equine Therapy Opportunities at Destiny Recovery Center
Among other accomplished reasons, Destiny Recovery Center (DRC) is well known for its ability to create an individualized treatment plan for each person who walks through its doors. Offering so many experiences and methods of therapy, DRC is able to meet the needs of each person in a way that is unique to their interests.
During residential treatment, exposure to various experiences allows clients to determine what works for them. Equine therapy is offered as one of the many options available for those in residential treatment. Appropriately it is also available to those receiving treatment for dual diagnosis.
Equine therapy offers a great impact for those in DRC’s program for dual diagnosis treatment. For example, those living with PTSD and substance use disorder (SUD) will find a multitude of benefits that will address symptoms experienced by both of the co-occurring disorders. Furthermore, exposure to equine therapy in this small, family-size group will promote communication between the participants and animals. This will ensure the greatest level of comfort, growth, and sense of accomplishment.
Resources for Equine Therapy in Your Area
When developing the aftercare program that is created for each client at DRC, we can assist you in incorporating equine therapy into your recovery plan. This will support one’s growth in working towards healing. Equine therapy has also been proven to support the individual to continue to gain progress in their day-to-day mood and quality of life.
To find equine therapy in specific areas, one may call their primary care provider or their therapist. Another option is to go and visit in person the local therapeutic riding center. This would allow observing in person what the center looks like, meeting some of the staff, and being introduced to some of the therapy horses. Expectantly, this may be the way to decide if it is the right fit for you.
Equine therapy can provide positive health benefits for you or your loved one. From pain management to stress management and for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to substance use disorder (SUD), equine therapy may provide the solution you have been searching for. Utilizing the benefits of this form of therapy may address co-occurring disorders, allowing for a holistic approach to treatment and resolution for the symptoms one is struggling with. Incorporating this therapy into one’s program may just be the piece that has been missing. For additional information on how equine therapy can be integrated into your treatment program and how to begin your recovery at Destiny Recovery Center, call us today at (909) 413-4304.