“A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves – strong, powerful and beautiful.”
What Are Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies?
Throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of individuals with and without special needs experience the rewarding benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). A physical, cognitive or emotional special need does not limit a person from interacting with horses. In fact, such interactions can prove highly rewarding. For instance, experiencing the rhythmic motion of a horse can be very beneficial. Riding a horse moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, so riders with physical needs often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.
Whether it’s a five-year-old with Down syndrome, a 45-year-old recovering from a spinal cord injury, a senior citizen recovering from a stroke or a teenager struggling with depression, research shows that individuals of all ages who participate in EAAT can experience physical and emotional rewards. For individuals with emotional challenges, the unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem. For teams in the corporate workplace and any individual seeking better leadership, team building or communication skills, working with horses provides a powerful new paradigm.
PATH Intl. is an international voice of the EAAT industry. As the premier professional membership organization, PATH Intl. advocates for EAAT and provides standards for safe and ethical equine interaction, through education, communication, standards and research.
The Role of the Equine as Partner in EAAT
New scientific research continues to reveal critical information about equine sentience- their abilities of perception, cognition, memory, and emotions such as pain and fear. Equines are able to perceive, respond to and learn from the impressions they receive from minimal sensory stimuli. The stimulus may originate from changes in human biochemistry, body language, or vocal intonations. It can also come from changes in the equine’s environment, relationships with other equines, or the equine’s general health In this way, equines make decisions based upon the stimuli they experience from others or from their environment (Hangg, 2005; Nicol, 2002; Proops, McComb, & Reby, 2009; Saslow, 2002). These abilities are based in natural, biological, physiological, and psychological traits of equines. Each equine is unique in personality, and has individual likes, dislikes and habits. The information gained from equine communication can be highly useful in all EAAT settings. Listening to equine communication can have an effect on the care of the equines, their rate of burnout, and the success of the human-equine interaction. In EAAT sessions or lessons, viewing the equine as a partner invites opportunities for relationship building and skill building with all participants served. (excerpt from PATH, International)
Why are horses such good therapy partners?
By nature, horses have evolved to have extremely high instincts. They are highly intuitive and sensitive to the internal states of the humans they work with, and they change their behavior depending on the emotions around them. If a human is anxious, the horse will behave differently than it would if the human were calm and same with being impatient or inattentive, the horse will show it.
Horses adopt and reflect back our energy, be it positive or negative just in the same way mirror does. Defense mechanisms and denial of that which makes us uncomfortable may obscure our true feelings from us, and it may be easier for us to read our own emotions and reactions when mirrored in the horse’s behavior. The horse provides a wealth of information about what’s really going on with the client, which is extremely useful when the client and therapist work together.
Horses have personalities, attitudes, and moods as unique as those of each individual human and especially those directly involved. EAP can produce many experiences and situations for discussion, analysis and insight into the client’s personal mode of operation in their own world.
Cost ranges from $150 to $275 per session.
For additional information please email: Info@shadowhillsridingclub.org
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