Equine therapy is an excellent option for trauma victims who have a hard time opening up about their experiences or who feel overwhelming anxiety or panic. Equine therapy provides a unique environment in which individuals are able to heal their invisible wounds in a way that is intuitive and fun. When some people first hear the words “equine therapy,” they aren’t sure what to imagine. Riding lessons? Petting a horse? The truth is that equine therapy provides an opportunity for trauma victims to form a trusting relationship from the ground up with a horse. Knowledgeable horse handlers work together with psychotherapists to provide a well-rounded session in which individuals learn how to communicate with the animals.
What Makes Equine Therapy Work?
All animals have a built in fight-or-flight instinct. Horses, as prey animals, tend to lean heavily toward “flight” as their primary response. Without wasting precious seconds to think first, a horse will leap out of the way of danger. Only when the horse is a safe distance from the threatening sight will it stop to decide whether its life really was in mortal danger. Trauma victims can easily relate to this flight instinct. Many everyday sights and sounds may remind someone of the trauma they experienced, and instead of stopping to think about it, they may naturally react. They may try to escape or hide, or they may try to fight back and defend themselves. But always being ready for danger is exhausting.
Horses rely on each other to take turns keeping watch. At the same time, they can quickly welcome a person into their circle of trust. If a horse can learn to trust that things in the environment won’t hurt it, can a person do the same? That’s one of the main premises of equine therapy. And it does work.
Horses and Bonding
The process of bonding with a horse, earning its trust and learning to communicate with it to achieve different tasks is phenomenally therapeutic thanks to the fact that the horse is a mirror for the traumatized person. Trust is built through body language, attitude and intention. Exercises are begun on the ground and can continue that way, or can progress to ridden exercises as well.
A horse trainer helps teach a trauma victim how to interact with the horse to build its trust. At the same time, a therapist is also there to help the client apply these lessons in everyday life. Thus equine therapy becomes an intensive therapeutic method with great results, and is guaranteed to be one type of therapy that you’ll look forward to each and every time.
How Does Equine Therapy Fit Into a Larger Trauma Treatment Program?
Equine therapy is not a stand-alone treatment, but rather it should be incorporated into an overall trauma treatment plan. This plan should include cognitive and/or dialectical behavioral therapies, pharmacotherapy, and other forms of supportive therapies alongside equine therapy.
Equine therapy helps individuals learn to work through their emotional issues in a safe space. It also gives them the opportunity to practice the skills they are gaining in other treatment modalities. Additionally, it can be a powerful tool to identify and address underlying trauma triggers that may not be addressed in traditional therapies.
For those suffering from PTSD particularly, equine therapy can help them develop self-awareness and gain insight into their emotional state. In turn, this allows them to better cope with traumatic memories and experiences.
Get Help Today From Promises Behavioral Health
At Promises Behavioral Health, our experienced team of clinicians and professionals is dedicated to helping those suffering from trauma regain control of their lives. We’ll create a customized treatment plan tailored to your needs.
By combining traditional therapies with equine-assisted psychotherapy, you can develop the skills and tools needed to manage your symptoms and move past trauma. Call us today at 844.875.5609 or reach out online to learn more about trauma therapy options.