What Is Equine Therapy

What Is Equine Therapy

Equine Therapy

Authored by Jane Squire MSc

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

Equine therapy (also known as horse therapy, equine-assisted therapy and equine-assisted psychotherapy) is a form of experimental therapy that involves interactions between patients and horses.1https://brill.com/view/journals/soan/15/3/article-p257_3.xml It is a rapidly growing treatment method globally, but does it actually work or is it yet another rehab scam with no benefits.

What is Equine Therapy

Equine Therapy includes activities (such as grooming, feeding, holding and guiding a horse) that are supervised by a psychiatric professional, often with the support of a horse professional. Both during the activity and after finishing work with the horse, the horse therapist can observe and interact with the patient to identify behavior patterns and process thoughts and emotions.

The goal of horse therapy is to help the patient develop the necessary skills and attributes such as responsibility, responsibility, self-confidence, problem-solving skills and self-control. Horse therapy also provides an innovative environment in which the therapist and patient can identify and address a range of emotional and behavioral challenges.2https://go.gale.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA267610582&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=07487711&p=HRCA&sw=w

What are the advantages of equine therapy?

Recent studies by the University of Michigan have shown that equine therapy has successfully helped patients show significant improvements in the following areas: Emotional awareness stress tolerance Impulse control Problem solving skills Self-esteem Social responsibility Interpersonal relationships Many of the benefits of horse therapy are likely due to the type of animals with which the patient and horse therapist interact. Horses are usually not judgmental, have no preconceived expectations or motives, and to a large extent reflect the attitudes and behavior of the people with whom they work.

What is Equine Therapy used for

While working with horses under the guidance and supervision of a horse therapist, horse therapists have a unique and effective way of noticing their tendency towards self-defeating and otherwise negative thoughts and actions.3https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0737080612009239

These findings provide an excellent basis for discussion and processing both during and after the therapy experience with horses. What diseases / disorders does horse therapy treat? Horse therapy has been successfully integrated into treatment programs for adults and adolescents treated for drug abuse, addiction, behavioral disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, learning disabilities, ADD / ADHD, autism, Asperger’s disease, grief / loss, trauma, sex, addiction, compulsive gambling, bipolar, depression and related diseases.

Is Equine Therapy a Scam

Equine therapy used to be regarded with great skepticism in the recovery treatment community. Some early reports referred to equine therapists as “nothing more than witch doctors peddling their wares” and many referred to the equine therapy scam.

However, over the years this skepticism has been debunked and horse therapy has earned its reputation as a targeted and effective tool in the treatment of many psychotherapist issues. As with many other pioneering techniques its important to find the Worlds Best Rehabs offering equine therapy as part of their program of treatment.4https://research.libraries.wsu.edu/xmlui/handle/2376/3434

Qualified Equine Therapist

When looking for equine-assisted therapy look for a program led by a licensed therapist with experience in this treatment modality. More and more colleges and universities have switched their mental health programs to include an element of horse therapy, yet often these courses only cover the basic elements of animal assisted psychotherapy. Qualifications such as the highly esteemed Eagala Certification represent the gold standard of equine therapy.

Equine Therapy for Teenage Rehab

Working with an animal outdoors can give teenagers a break from the formal clinical situation of teenage rehab. The changed environment helps an alcoholic or addicted teen to relax. This is an important step in building trust and confidence. In addition, the work will involve adolescents in a healthy activity that does not include drugs or alcohol. Physical work also enables teenagers to develop positive habits that replace the habits and rituals of drug abuse. Since the horses cannot take care of themselves, the teenager learns responsibility and discipline in grooming.

Teenagers learn how to take care of the animal and how it responds positively to moods.5https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02650533.2011.561304 In this way, addicted adolescents can build confidence that helps them deal with people, including their parents, siblings, teachers, and friends, in a healthier manner. Another benefit of equine-assisted alcohol and drug withdrawal treatment is that adolescents appreciate that animals don’t judge them, and for adolescents who feel judged by parents, teachers, and other adults, this can be a very effective remedy.

The therapy enables a teenage client to connect with another creature that doesn’t nag, scold, or refuse. Although the horse does not judge an addicted teenager as human, it reacts so that the addict learns more about his own behavior. For example, if the teenager is too rough with the animal, it will be shy and the therapist will take this opportunity to explain why the animal has reacted negatively through these actions. Teenagers learn to recognize the consequences of aggressive, violent or unpredictable behavior and these findings promote good communication skills, allowing adolescents to interact more effectively in normal environments such as school or at home.

Many young people find that the horse also acts as a friendly listener and some addicts will share their fears and hopes with the animal because they feel they cannot share them with their peers or adults. The therapist can encourage their young clients to tell the horse their feelings and stories so that it is easier for the teenager to open up during formal therapy sessions.

Equine Therapy Treatment

This therapy is versatile and can be used as part of an inpatient, outpatient or aftercare rehabilitation program. Horse-assisted therapy can take place daily or several times a week, depending on the facility.

Benefits of Equine Therapy


  1. Increased self esteem
  2. Improved communication
  3. Learning effective boundaries
  4. Improved Empathy
  5. Self control and confidence
  6. Responsibility


References: What is Equine Therapy

1. Nurenberg J.R., Schleifer S.J., Shaffer T.M., Yellin M., Desai P.J., Amin R., Bouchard A., Montalvo C. Animal-Assisted Therapy with Chronic Psychiatric Inpatients: Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy and Aggressive Behavior. Psychiatr. Serv. 2015;66:80–86. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201300524. [PubMed] []

2. Kraft K.A., Weisberg J., Finch M.D., Nickel A., Griffin K.H., Barnes T.L. Hippotherapy in Rehabilitation Care for Children with Neurological Impairments and Developmental Delays: Hippotherapy in Rehabilitation Care for Children with Neurological Impairments and Developmental Delays: A Case Series. Pediatr. Phys. Ther. 2019;31:E14–E21. doi: 10.1097/PEP.0000000000000567. [PubMed] []

3. Marcet-Rius M., Kalonji G., Cozzi A., Bienboire-Frosini C., Monneret P., Kowalczyk I., Teruel E., Codecasa E., Pageat P. Effects of straw provision, as environmental enrichment, on behavioural indicators of welfare and emotions in pigs reared in an experimental system. Livest. Sci. 2019;221:89–94. doi: 10.1016/j.livsci.2019.01.020. []

4. McKinney C., Mueller M.K., Frank N. Effects of Therapeutic Riding on Measures of Stress in Horses. J. Equine Vet. Sci. 2015;35:922–928. doi: 10.1016/j.jevs.2015.08.015. []

5. Paul E.S., Harding E.J., Mendl M. Measuring emotional processes in animals: The utility of a cognitive approach. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 2005;29:469–491. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.01.002. [PubMed] []

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Is Equine Therapy a Scam
Article Name
Is Equine Therapy a Scam
Horse therapy (also known as horse therapy, horse-assisted therapy and horse-assisted psychotherapy) is a form of experimental therapy that involves interactions between patients and horses. Equine therapy used to be regarded with great skepticism in the recovery treatment community. Some early reports referred to equine therapists as "nothing more than witch doctors peddling their wares" and many referred to the equine therapy scam.
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