Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Therapy in disguise - that's what my horse habit is really all about. Many of my nutty horsey friends will agree too. Instead of visiting a typical therapist to address our psychological and emotional issues, we visit the barn. And instead of a couch we find hay bales and a saddle.
Joking aside though, there is now some very compelling research that confirms what many horse enthusiasts have known for years - horsemanship has great therapeutic benefit. And Equine Assisted Therapy is precisely what it seems - therapy that is facilitated by equine activities. Such activities are chosen by practitioners to enable participants to learn about themselves while developing the skills they need to move forward in their lives.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, Attachment Disorder, behavioural difficulties, and many more challenges can be effectively addressed through horsemanship. Participants don't necessarily ride either. Any horse related activity from catching a horse from its paddock to leading it through an obstacle can facilitate tremendous learning.
In one common format of Equine Assisted Learning, participants don’t even touch the horse they’re working with. While working in a group they are assigned tasks such as getting a horse to go over a jump. They are given 60 seconds to come up with a strategy and then must apply the strategy without speaking and without touching the horse. Tasks like these promote self-awareness, problem solving, and communication.
At Riding 4 Life, participants will be tasked with similar challenges while working with a horse. Goals often include increased resiliency and emotional regulation. They may also be learning to focus more effectively and link their behaviour to the consequences of their given situation – all while horsin’ around in a cleverly monitored and safe environment that looks and feels nothing like a typical therapeutic venue.