Thanks to Ash Stevens for providing this guest post. Find out more about her at the bottom of this article. Enjoy.
Winston Churchill said, “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” And don’t we know it. Much of the world has forgotten about the power of the horse with the craziness of modern life, but there have always been families holding tightly onto the legacy of the horse. This has also made them more necessary than ever. A few wise horse lovers have promoted horse riding as alternative therapy, and it’s doing what fancy therapists and expensive pills just can’t. People of all needs and ages are discovering the magic of these majestic creatures, and this is how…
Horses may not speak, but they’ve been giving lessons in communication for years. Horses are hypersensitive to sound and movement, so interacting with them requires deliberate action and intentional and controlled moving around. This, plus their uncanny ability to sense human emotion, makes them the perfect mirror. As Ray Hunt said, “The horse knows. He knows if you know. He also knows, if you don’t know.”
If you’re being loud, acting without focus or intention, or feeling upset, then your horse companion will respond accordingly. This is HUGE when it comes to developing social skills. Autism spectrum disorders are one realm where communication and social interaction can get a lot of help. According to one study published in 2014, children with ASD showed improvements after just 6 weeks of equine-assisted activities. No nagging; no yelling; no chaos. Just kids and horses coming together in fun and understanding.
Horses pick up on our emotional state in a heartbeat. They also reflect the same state of mind. Anger and frustration can spark a horse with obstinance, while sadness can provoke disinterest or moodiness. Riding and handling isn’t going to happen unless their companion has their feelings under control. Many kids and adults struggle with their emotional behavior. Much of it is because they’re unaware of how they’re acting. Horses make it clear that murky thoughts and emotions are swirling around, and that makes it possible for kids and adults to tune in to how they’re feeling and how they’re dealing with it. Because of this, horse therapy has become a powerful aid for ADHD.
Thanks to the lessons these beautiful beasts offer in communicating and managing emotions, horses are excellent teachers of self-awareness. A horse reacts to behavior with like behavior, so that forces their handler to give immediate attention to how they’re feeling and acting. This snappy cause-and-effect interaction naturally gets people to notice how they behave and why. This is so important, because once they can actually see how they act in everyday life, they can take steps to change it. And everyone from kids with ADHD to veterans with PTSD are making those changes happen through equine therapy. Equine therapy may even ease alzheimer’s!
Tell anyone on the street that riding a horse is exercise, and they’ll probably look at you like you’re crazy. But any horse rider knows that calling horse riding exercise in an understatement. That’s because riding a horse takes balance, engaged leg muscles, and an active core. Horse riding is being used as a gentle form of exercise for kids with physical disabilities like cerebral palsy, and it’s proven to be both beneficial and, most importantly, fun. Kids get to work important muscle groups without the dread of a special workout or the pressure and stress of supervision. The time spent outside smiling in the fresh air and sunshine just makes it even better for their health and well-being.
Equine assisted therapy for addiction
Fancy scientific instruments can show that equine therapy brings down blood pressure and heart rate, but there’s nothing that can measure the acceptance, freedom, and peace of mind that horses give us. This aspect of equine therapy makes it a powerful aid in moving past anxiety, stress and depression. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers recognized this and tried using it with their patients. Today, equine-assisted therapy is used in addiction treatment all across the nation.
Addiction-specific EAT (equine assisted therapy) caters to the deep psychological and emotional wounds carried by addicts by helping them to recognize their behaviors, process their troubles and build new skills that take them beyond old patterns. Equine-assisted therapists like Dede Beasley help addicts learn to identify and process emotions and develop trust, boundaries and communication skills. Better yet, there’s no talking necessary. It’s all done by working with a horse who casts no judgement and lives in the moment. As it turns out, that’s an approach to life that everyone would be all the better for.
Ash is a mother, gardener, writer, and a fan of all things green. Her love for health and simplicity began with her journey into motherhood, and it’s grown exponentially ever since. She’s passionate about living it up with gardening, cooking, an active lifestyle, and being outdoors as much as possible. If she isn’t writing or reading up on exciting green trends, she’s probably playing Connect Four or swimming in the river with the kids.