top of page

Exploring the Transformative Power of Equine-Assisted Therapy: A Journey Towards Healing and Growth



In the realm of therapeutic interventions, Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has emerged as a remarkable approach, blending the healing presence of animals with traditional therapeutic techniques. Among various AAT methods, Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT) stands out for its profound impact on individuals grappling with a spectrum of challenges. This blog delves into the transformative potential of EAT, particularly in addressing complex conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.


Understanding Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT)

EAT involves interactions with horses under the guidance of a qualified therapist. Unlike traditional horseback riding, EAT encompasses a range of activities including grooming, saddling, and ground-level work with horses. These interactions are not just recreational; they are carefully structured to achieve therapeutic goals.


The Science Behind EAT

Multiple studies underscore the efficacy of EAT. Therapeutic horseback riding (THR), a subset of EAT, has shown promising results in children with cerebral palsy and autistic spectrum disorder. More intriguingly, EAT has demonstrated effectiveness in alleviating symptoms of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and PTSD.

For instance, a recent study involving US Army Veterans with PTSD developed an evidence-based protocol of THR, observing significant improvement in symptoms and functioning. Another study by Earles et al. focused on patients with PTSD due to rape or serious accidents. The participants underwent EAT for six weeks, resulting in a significant reduction in posttraumatic and anxiety symptoms.


The Physical and Psychological Impact of EAT

EAT not only aids in improving muscular and nervous system functions but also enhances sensory processing, posture, and coordination. The rhythmic movement of the horse activates the rider’s central nervous system, leading to heightened sensory awareness and readiness to engage.

Psychologically, EAT contributes to increased self-esteem, self-efficacy, and emotional regulation. The unique bond formed with the horse during therapy offers a sense of comfort and trust, essential for individuals with PTSD who often struggle with anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure).


A Mirror to Emotions: The Role of the Horse

Horses are sensitive creatures, adept at responding to human emotions and body language. This sensitivity makes them excellent therapeutic partners, reflecting the emotional states of patients and facilitating an environment conducive to healing and growth.


Real-world Impact: Case Studies and Observations

In a comprehensive study conducted in Israel, participants with PTSD showed significant improvements in work, family, and social functioning post-EAT. Patients reported enhanced coping skills, better relationship management, and a newfound sense of control over their lives.


Overcoming Challenges

Despite its effectiveness, EAT faces challenges like limited studies and high dropout rates, common in PTSD treatments. Future research with larger samples and control groups is necessary to validate and expand upon these findings.


Conclusion

EAT represents a beacon of hope for those seeking alternative therapeutic methods. By harnessing the healing power of horses, EAT offers a unique, holistic approach to therapy that transcends traditional boundaries. It embodies the convergence of empathy, science, and the natural world, opening new pathways to healing and self-discovery.

---

Equine-Assisted Therapy at Strides to Solutions offers this transformative experience, blending the therapeutic wisdom of horses with the expertise of our dedicated professionals. We invite you to embark on this journey of healing and growth with us.


References:

Shelef, A., Brafman, D., Rosing, T., Weizman, A., Stryjer, R., & Barak, Y. (2019). Equine Assisted Therapy for Patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series Study. Military Medicine, 184(9-10), 394–399. doi:10.1093/milmed/usz036

1 view0 comments
bottom of page