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Horses are truly majestic creatures that are known to help people become mentally and physically stronger.
Here is the complete effect they have on our mental and physical health.
How Do Horses Help With Mental and Physical Health Issues?
Horses have had a healthy relationship with humans for thousands of years. Research has even found that the first domestication of horses occurred over 6,000 years ago in western Eurasian Steppe. They were used as means of transportation and carried humans across many regions.
For the longest time, horses were also key features in war. However, horses have now become central players in the mental rehabilitation of people dealing with mental illnesses around the world. They are also used to improve the physical health of people with sensory and motor problems. So how exactly do they help?
What Therapy Do Horses Provide?
There are two main ways that horses can help humans: physically and mentally.
- Equine Therapy for Mental Rehabilitation
Equine therapy is a popular term used for experimental treatment where horses and individuals interact to improve their psychological health. A horse professional and licensed therapist conduct a variety of activities together like walking, feeding, grooming, playing equine games, and many others. This has a positive effect on the individual’s mental state, which is why it is becoming increasingly popular.
- Hippotherapy for Improved Physical Health
Equine Therapy is an umbrella term that includes all kinds of therapeutic activities involving horses. One such therapy, for example, is called Hippotherapy. This utilizes horses and their movement to develop occupational, speech, and physical therapy.
It is often used to treat sensory and motor issues that people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, and other physical illnesses have. Horses have been used for physical therapy since the 5th century B.C. but the formal discipline was established in the 1960s.
What Is Equine Therapy Used For?
Equine psychotherapy is often used to treat different mental conditions and psychological symptoms such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, grief, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and behavioral issues like aggression.
Why Choose Horses for Therapy?
The relationship between a horse and a human is very unique. Horses are one of the most naturally intuitive animals and mirror human emotions almost instantly.
Although many feel that dogs are more intuitive, the reason why horses are more so is due to the fact that they react very quickly to the stimuli around them, which is why most horses quickly run off into the distance when they feel even the smallest amounts of fear. This makes it really easy to get feedback and train oneself to regulate emotions.
How Do Horses Help?
There are many different models of therapy that various psychologists all over the world have designed to help patients with the help of horses. This research and model suggest that the best way to utilize the therapy is to have the individual interact with the animal at ground level.
Under the instruction and guidance of professionals, horses can offer usable information and honest feedback on how individuals should act around others. It can actually help improve their interaction skills with others and help them learn how their actions affect others.
This is because horses are an emotional mirror for humans. They actively respond to our feelings as we exhibit them. They have a really strong emotional sense since they are herd and prey animals. They use this skill as a survival tool and respond to other horses in the herd the same way. Even if one horse in the herd is scared, the others will respond similarly so that they can survive.
This is the same way they respond to humans. For example, if a human approaches the horses in a state of anger, the horse will probably become stubborn or shy away. Horses will never hide their emotions which can help you learn how to regulate your emotions.
A horses’ sensitivity provides important feedback to humans, even before humans are aware of their own emotional state. It helps us gain insight into our own non-verbal cues that the animal is in tune with. This feedback allows people to work towards a positive change in their behavior and moods.
Calming down will also result in the animal calming down; this positive relationship works to help us balance our emotions and learn to regulate them more effectively. Their powerful stature also helps people overcome fear and gain real-life confidence.
Help With Addictions
The first thing that horses do is help individuals identify their feelings so that they can regulate them better. Many addicts are known for using substances like alcohol and drugs to numb their feelings. When they do get clean, they may not know to identify feelings or what to do with them. This can be really frustrating and confusing for many addicts.
The horse can help provide information about their own feelings to the client. For example, if they walk angrily or pull at its lead or halter aggressively, the horse will simply pull away or yank its head back. The therapist will comment on the interaction and ask why the client is angry. If the client goes in denial about their anger, the evidence of the horse’s behavior and feedback will be plain to see, helping identify their own feelings.
Addicts and even trauma patients need to learn how to identify their emotions properly so that they can work through them. Horses prove to be really great tools to do just that.
Helping with Trauma
Horses can also make it easier for patients to re-vision any traumatic events that may have happened in the patient’s past. The fear of horses due to anything in their stimuli can help clients remember their past experiences of child abuse.
It can be a trigger for their own feelings of fright in that situation or their powerlessness. However, since it is a controlled environment, it can be really positive. The therapist can talk to them at once to help them work through their trauma.
Horses are really majestic and gentle creatures. Their honesty makes it really easy to trust them, and their gentleness opens avenues of a caring relationship. They can really help patients become stronger and are known to have positive real-life effects.
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