Equine therapy, a therapeutic approach that harnesses the centuries-long companionship between horses and humans, has proven effective in promoting mental health and overall well-being. With their keen sensitivity and strong prey drive, horses can read and respond to human emotions, making them exceptional therapeutic partners.
Equine Therapy at Uinta
Licensed therapists at Uinta work closely with students and their horses to ensure each equine experience is meaningful and therapeutically integrated. These trained therapists understand the intricacies of equine-assisted therapy and how it can be applied to address various mental and behavioral health concerns. Our therapists utilize evidence-based techniques to help students process their experiences, identify patterns, and connect to their daily lives.
During a session, therapists guide and facilitate the interactions between the students and horses, observing and interpreting the dynamics at play. They help students explore their emotions, reactions, and thoughts that arise during the session, providing a safe and supportive environment for reflection and self-discovery. By combining their expertise in mental health therapy with the unique dynamics of equine interactions, licensed therapists play a crucial role in helping students integrate the therapeutic benefits of equine therapy into their overall well-being.
Let’s look at three ways horses can help us heal from trauma and learn to build stronger, healthier relationships.
Developing Emotional Intelligence
At Uinta, students often experience transformative moments with their assigned horses. Horses exhibit a remarkable ability to mirror human emotions, allowing them to sense how a student is feeling. These animals might approach the student differently depending on the feelings they pick up on, pulling back if they feel unsafe or stepping forward to offer a reassuring presence, providing comfort and reminding the student that they are not alone.
Horses’ ability to mirror human emotions can be attributed to their innate prey drive. As highly perceptive animals, horses have evolved to be acutely attuned to their surroundings, constantly scanning for signs of danger. This heightened awareness extends to their interactions with humans, enabling them to pick up on subtle cues and shifts in emotional states.
For example, suppose a student who has formed a strong bond with a horse arrives at the therapy session feeling withdrawn or upset. In that case, the horse may respond with signs of concern, such as increased alertness, lowered head, or gentle nudges. This intuitive response from the horse often prompts the student to open up, providing an opportunity for emotional expression and healing.
By witnessing the horse’s mirroring behavior, students can understand their emotions and learn to regulate them effectively. Through equine therapy, individuals develop emotional intelligence as they navigate their interactions with the horses, allowing them to apply these skills in their relationships with friends, family, and peers.
Learning to Create Trust
In addition to mirroring emotions, horses also contribute to developing trust and respect in individuals. Horses are highly intuitive creatures and can sense when someone acts disrespectfully or inconsistently. Through equine therapy, individuals are encouraged to establish trust and respect with their horse partners. By maintaining consistent and respectful interactions, individuals learn the importance of these qualities and can transfer them to their relationships with others.
Furthermore, horses provide a valuable lesson in setting and maintaining boundaries. These assertive animals may test limits if they are not clearly defined. In equine therapy, individuals learn to establish clear and consistent boundaries with their horses, effectively communicating their expectations. This skill of boundary setting translates to other interpersonal relationships, enabling individuals to develop healthy boundaries and foster mutually respectful connections.
Sharing Emotions and Connection
Lastly, equine therapy cultivates empathy within individuals. As students interact with their horses, they become attuned to the horse’s needs, emotions, and experiences. By recognizing and empathizing with the horse’s feelings, individuals develop a heightened sense of empathy, which can be applied to their relationships with others. Understanding and sharing another person’s emotions promotes deeper connections and enhances the overall quality of relationships.
In conclusion, equine therapy offers a holistic approach to improving mental health and fostering healthy relationships. Individuals can enhance their communication skills, regulate emotions, build trust and respect, establish boundaries, and develop empathy through the unique bond between humans and horses. As the centuries-long companionship between horses and humans continues to be celebrated, equine therapy remains a powerful tool for personal growth and transformative healing.
Lanae is the Admissions and Outreach Director at Uinta Academy. She has worked in Residential Treatment Center’s for over 10 years in a variety of roles including primary therapist, program director, program development and implementation, admissions, transition coach and aftercare specialist.