How Horses Heal

This Article is part of our Equine Mental Health Awareness Month, brought to you by Touched by a Horse.

If you’ve been seeking wisdom on how to improve your mental health to live a better life, your horse has a lot to show you. If you’ve ever felt immediately comforted or relaxed in your horse’s presence, you’ve already experienced the power of equine therapy.

Equine therapy, also known as equine-assisted therapy, has emerged as a powerful and innovative approach in the realm of mental health treatment. By leveraging the unique bond between humans and horses, this form of therapy offers a therapeutic environment that can feel less threatening and more inviting than traditional talk therapy settings. As of today, research and clinical experiences have provided profound insights into the valuable connection between equine therapy and mental health.

Through interactions with horses, people have the opportunity to develop crucial life skills. This includes communication, trust, perspective, social skills, and impulse control. These experiences can lead to a profound sense of empowerment and self-awareness, contributing to positive mental health outcomes.

Why Horses?

Equine-assisted therapy encourages individuals to be calm, centered, and fully engaged during interactions with horses. This promotes mindfulness, a state of focused awareness on the present moment, which has been shown to have significant benefits for mental health. Horses, as sensitive and perceptive animals, can effectively teach us mindfulness and emotional regulation. This can aid in stress reduction and emotional well-being.

Horses have a unique gift of intuition and being present in the moment. Their calm and gentle nature is a perfect fit for a therapeutic setting. Horses have been used in therapy to help people from all walks of life. Horses are non-judgmental animals, providing individuals with a sense of acceptance and unconditional positive regard. A horse isn’t going to care about the pattern on your jacket, or if you did well in school. Participants can feel assured that they can be themselves without fear of judgement or critique.

Horses are highly perceptive and intuitive animals, capable of reflecting the emotions and behaviors of those around them. This allows participants to gain insights into their own emotional states and interpersonal dynamics through the reactions and responses of the horses. This facilitates self-awareness and personal growth.

Equine Gestalt

Equine Gestalt™ combines horses and traditional Gestalt methods to help those in the session become more self-aware, at peace, and work through unfinished business from past experiences. Gestalt is non-diagnostic, meaning that the Gestaltist does not label or diagnose you with disorders. Instead, through an experiential process, the coach encourages you to clear up residue from your past encounters and interactions. As a result, you can gain a sense of peace, feel free to be who you really are, and to choose behaviors that enhance your life instead of remaining at the mercy of becoming reactionary.

Due to their heightened sensitivity, and because horses live in the present moment, genuine contact with human emotion comes naturally to them. These qualities make horses good facilitators and a unique benefit to programs that partner with them. In Equine Gestalt the horse is an active partner in the coaching and healing process.

[Read More on Equine Gestalt]

Responsibility and Versatility

Interacting with horses requires individuals to take on roles of leadership, responsibility, and decision-making. This empowers participants to develop confidence, assertiveness, and problem-solving skills, which can translate into improved emotional regulation and self-efficacy.

Horses can also adapt their behavior and responses to accommodate individuals with diverse emotional and physical needs. This versatility makes equine therapy accessible and beneficial for a wide range of participants. Regardless of their specific challenges or limitations.

How Can Horses Help You Heal?

Enhanced Emotional Regulation: Interacting with horses can aid in developing emotional regulation and self-awareness. This can lead to improved emotional well-being and resilience.

Stress Reduction: The calming presence of horses and the outdoor environment in which they are often found can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.

Improved Communication Skills: Through working with horses, individuals can develop better communication skills. This includes non-verbal communication, which can be beneficial for interpersonal relationships.

Development of Trust and Empathy: Building a bond with horses can foster trust, empathy, and understanding.

Empowerment and Resilience: The sense of accomplishment and empowerment gained from working with horses can bolster resilience and coping mechanisms in dealing with life’s challenges.

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