GUEST POST! How Horses Help with Your Mental Health

Hi there gang! International Cowgirl here! I would like to give a huge thanks to Sarah Jones for writing this month’s guest post. Sarah is a freelance writer currently writing for Equi Supermarket in the United Kingdom. I hope you love her article as much as I did. Enjoy!

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Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

While our relationship with horses started out as a very practical one, using them for transport and farming purposes, we now know they have a much larger role to play in our lives and are very complex and sensitive creatures.

It has been proven that activities with horses, combined with more traditional treatments, can make a real difference to people suffering from mental health issues such as ADHD or depression. They can also help with those who need physical therapy or speech therapy as well.

Equine-assisted therapy, as it is officially known, has also been shown to help patients suffering from PTSD and works to increase self-esteem, build concentration and help patients to relax and reduce anxiety levels. Equine-assisted therapy covers several different ways in which horses can be used within therapy to help treat patients. For example, Hippo therapy involves using the way horses move to help with physical therapy.
Hippo therapy has been proven to help with patients who have multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy and also for those who have suffered a stroke and it has been around for hundreds of years as a known practice. When it comes to supporting mental health, equine-assisted psychotherapy uses horses to help treat behavioural and psychological problems and is a therapy which is in its infancy, and is not widely practiced as scientists are still working to understand exactly why and how horses help with mental health problems.
However, what is known is that horses are very sensitive animals, highly in tune with their environment and very good at picking up on people’s emotional states. When used in therapy in this way, the horse will often pick up on the patient’s emotions before the therapist does, moving towards them to offer comfort for example.
We spoke to the team behind Equi Supermarket and they gave us insights on other benefits equine therapy has. They stated that working with large horses help to support people trying to overcome fears and gain confidence in other areas of life. Knowing they can deal with and handle a large animal helps them overcome other challenges.
Horses also work well with people who want to build a relationship with them and this social interaction can also help with people suffering from social anxieties as the horse passes no judgement and just responds to them.
Equine assisted psychotherapy has been used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions including: depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, ADHD, aggression, substance abuse, eating disorders and communication problems.
Generally a session will involve working with both a therapist and a horse-handler and will involve psychotherapy techniques including role-playing, combined with horse-related activities such as grooming and taking the horse on a walk. The patient then talks about how they felt during the session.

There have been many case studies demonstrating the benefits of equine-assisted psychotherapy but the controlled studies to prove it scientifically are somewhat lacking. However there have been papers published in psychology journals highlighting it as a promising therapy area. The paper showed that it was also a great therapy option to try for people who had already failed to respond to a more traditional approach. From the case studies so far, it has been shown that even after just two or three sessions, people have experienced in improvement in: communication skills, self-awareness, self-esteem, empowerment, relaxation, relationships, focus, happiness and self-control. The examples also revealed that those who underwent equine assisted psychotherapy managed to reduce their levels of depression, aggression and anger, highlighting the effectiveness of the approach for these particular mental health issues.
Unfortunately horse therapy for mental health isn’t a widely available treatment at the moment so it might be difficult to find a willing practitioner however they do exist and if you do some research you will be able to find a reputable equine therapy centre to suit your particular requirements.
Riding horses has long been known to have positive health effects from the physical exercise as well as the benefits of being outdoors in the fresh air, but now it is becoming more and more evident that horses can have a strong benefit to our mental health as well. Just going out for a ride can take your mind off any worries, giving you time to relax and switch off as you need to concentrate entirely on the riding process to stay balanced and safe in the saddle.
Horses make great loyal companions which can also be a key part of any healing process from a mental health condition or life problem. Our relationship with horses has come a long way from simply using them to haul loads and pull heavy farm machinery – now we are truly coming to value the sensitivity of these animals and how amazing our  connection with them really can be. There is no doubt that equine therapy is here to
stay.

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Thank you again Sarah for writing such a thought-provoking article!

What did you think readers? Comment below if you enjoyed this as much as I did!

I would love to follow this article up with any Equine-Assisted Therapists who are avid readers or followers of the blog. If you would like to be a guest writer or be featured on International Cowgirl Blog, head over to our Contact Me page & submit a request! Easy peazy lemon squeazy!

As always, thank you for stopping by!

Stay safe & God Bless!

~~ Cat, International Cowgirl xoxo

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