While a quick internet search reveals a litany of ways to treat mental illness, and especially trauma, the majority of these methods involve a significant cognitive component, which may not always be the most comfortable thing for a traumatized person to consider. To be sure, one of the strongest concerns of those clients with a traumatic history is having to re-experience what was overwhelming to them in order to feel better. And yet, many experts wonder, how else may they begin to have some reprieve from their symptoms?
Although a quick internet search reveals many articles and descriptions of equine therapy, the actual research support for this fascinating experiential modality can be hard to find. This is one of the many reasons that using horses as a therapeutic modality has been criticized. While naysayers have contended that there is no empirical evidence for the efficacy of equine therapy, much of difficulty in refuting this claim comes from the fact that the evidence can be hard to fin
And without a thorough family history, and the ability to interview integral family members, such as caregivers, a therapist would also be mystified. So, enter equine therapy. Is it possible that working with a horse can help to uncover some of the patient’s early bonding experiences, and explain how and why she/he may be reverting? Perhaps.
“In my experience, horses don’t want anything to do with people.” “All horses want to do is eat all the time.” “There is no way horses can tell what is going on with people.” These are just a few of the criticisms the field of equine therapy has encountered over the years. And these have come, despite the tremendous growth, and recent research supporting the use of horses as a therapeutic modality. However, no new treatment, therapy or method is without it’s growing pains, and what is unique about equine therapy is that horses are typically outside of the realm of understanding of most people.
Although the desire to remain thin, and all of the concomitant social pressures that accompany body image have been around for some time, and now well documented in books such as “Rethinking Thin,” by Gina Kolata, in the field of psychotherapy, clinically recognized eating disorders are not the old. And what is even more nascent, is just how to treat these often pervasive cases of self induced starvation. While certainly many therapies have been tried, and the among these, some experiential forms, one of the more popular methodologies has been that of equine therapy. But how is it that hanging around a horse can help someone reconstruct the often very distorted body image, heal the fractured relationships, and rekindle the desire to eat?
While there are numerous complaints clients can present with and probably an even greater abundance of ways to treat these ailments, the majority of practitioners would most likely agree that the majority of them stem from the relationships that people find themselves in. Or perhaps, these present relationships are reflections of the more formative earlier ones. In either case, there is no shortage of methods to help people better understand themselves and their relationships.
Dr. Paul Spiers, past NARHA (North American Riding for Handicapped Association) president describes the organization’s goal as, “appreciating the power of horses to change lives.” When considering our service men and women, Spiers feels especially strong. He continues, “Our service personnel have fought to preserve our freedom, and, for many, at a very dear cost. We must be certain that if our wounded service personnel and veterans need and want this kind of help, they will get the best NARHA has to offer.”
For as long as the diagnosis of ADHD has been recognized, there have been experiential methods to treat it. From wilderness excursions to ropes courses, therapists have looked for ways to help those children burdened with high anxiety, short attention span, inability to focus and complete tasks, and heightened excitability, learn to understand and manage their condition. However, one of the difficulties that has been encountered repeatedly in working with ADHD children is a way to teach them the necessary social skills to develop effective relationships. As often those around ADSHD children will complain about their apparent lack of interest, difficulty in carrying on a meaningful conversation, and maintaining accountability, relationships are often strained. And while they may be able to learn to use goal and completion charts to organize and complete their own tasks, children with ADHD may continue to struggle with face to face interactions. While verbal reminders have fallen short, therapists have turned to non-verbal methods to help these children identify how they present and the impact that it has on those around them. This is where equine therapy has, of recent, been utilized quite intently.
For those of you who are interested in the emerging field of equine therapy, finding pertinent resources can sometimes be challenging. While there are many books written on horses and people, and many more written on just horses themselves, they may not entirely explain what equine therapy is, or how it can be used. In order to address this need, I have compiled an exhaustive reading list. The list is a s follows: