I was recently asked to visit a stable to provide chiropractic service to some therapy horses. Although I was familiar with riding for the disabled and have worked with these groups before these horses were different. They were used for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). EAP is not about riding or horsemanship.All interactions with the horses are done on the ground. It is a powerful and effective therapeutic approach that has an incredible impact on individuals, youth, families, and groups. EAP is a partnership between a horse, a therapist and a client to address mental health and emotional issues including behavioral issues, attention deficit disorder, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs. This kind of therapy has been used for people in high stress jobs, teenagers, military and police personnel and as a form of grief counseling.
Why horses and not other animals? Horses influence people in positive ways. They are honest, and social creatures and masters of non verbal communication. Because they are large, working with them instills confidence in dealing with other large life issues. Horses require us to work, whether in caring for them or working with them. Horses require people to be engaged in physical and mental work to be successful, a valuable lesson in all aspects of life.
As life becomes more difficult and stressful it is amazing that our animals can provide us with a way to improve our mental and physical health. They are smarter than we know, non judgmental and honest. Everyone should spend a least part of their day caring for and interacting with animals for our own good and theirs!