Equestrian therapy or therapy with horses consists of interventions in which therapeutic objectives are set for each user.
Horses as therapy and motivational element
Horses are incorporated into the treatment as a motivational element to achieve the proposed objectives. The person in charge of directing the therapy must be a health or education professional and, depending on the reason for the consultation, will be attended by specialists in psychology, physiotherapists or teachers, all with training as Expert in Therapeutic Riding.
Therapy with horses is aimed at a very heterogeneous group. Taking into account that, sometimes, people who come to it may present more than one pathology, in many cases, aspects of the motor, emotional, cognitive, sensory, educational and social areas can be worked simultaneously. The final objective of the therapy will be to improve the patient’s quality of life, emotional well-being and social and family relationships.
Equine-assisted psychotherapy: establishing a bond of affection
Equine-assisted psychotherapy is also included in equine therapies. These are interventions based on an experiential therapeutic model that is carried out both on the ground and on horseback, depending on the patient’s needs. It is not necessary for the patient to have previous experience with horses. Specifically, when working with children and adolescents, the sessions are approached through play. In this way they are more motivated, thus facilitating development in different areas.
It is a type of intervention based on the affective bond established between the child or adult and the horse. People’s problems are worked on in a metaphorical way and, in this way, they develop behaviors, emotions and behavior patterns that generate positive relationships.
Who can receive equine-assisted psychotherapy?
Equine-assisted psychotherapy is aimed at both children and adults. Normally those who benefit most on a cognitive and emotional level are patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down syndrome, mental illness, people with behavioral or emotional problems, anxiety, bullying, ADHD, etc.
On the other hand, at a motor level, those who most resort to horse therapy are people with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or multiple sclerosis. At the sensory level, people with blindness and deafness can also benefit. At the educational level, it is usually children and adolescents with learning disorders who come to this type of therapy.
What are the benefits of psychotherapy with horses for the patient?
People who resort to horse therapy improve their self-esteem and self-confidence, achieving greater self-control and relaxation capacity. They also improve their ability to form emotionally healthy relationships, working on empathy, affection, the desire to share or to generate assertive behaviors. In addition, it favors the capacity of concentration, choice, attention, memory, orientation in space, anticipatory behavior… In an environment of communicative openness and social relations.
At the motor level, the therapy regulates muscle tone and balance, improves coordination, motor skills (fine and gross) and postural control. In the long term, it also automates the locomotion pattern and re-educates motor patterns, promoting balance and support and straightening reactions, also increasing motor planning capacity.
How many sessions of psychotherapy with horses will be necessary?
The number of sessions will vary according to the reason for consultation and the patient. People with autism will probably need more sessions than a patient with depression or a child with a behavioral disorder. Collaboration between specialists is also important if the patient is already undergoing other treatments.
In addition to therapy with horses, there are others with dogs, cats or dolphins. Little by little it is being observed that contact with any animal is therapeutic and encourages responsible behavior.