While research behind equine therapy has been in many ways, incomplete, the research around the neurological effects of equine therapy may be even less comprehensive. Yet, therapeutic riding programs have been especially effective with attentional disorders, and many have speculated that this has to do with the areas of the brain that are stimulated by riding a horse.
ADHD is a pervasive problem in this country, and one that is likely to continue to rise. While our society, in many ways, almost seems to promote ADHD with ever- increasing connection avoidance, people continue to struggle to manage ADHD. Certainly, medication can help, but the root of the problem — an inability to connect with those around you — can linger. And the question of just how to treat connection problems is even greater for those who may be so steeped in their Ipads, Smartphones and online world to know where to start. Well if we look at the problem as a difficulty in connecting with people, we might also look for something less intimidating to connect with, such as horses.
So often horse owners determine was is right and good for a horse based on what they — the human — may consider good. Sadly, in that process, of, for lack of better terminology, trying to humanize the horse, we forget, that horses, after all got along just fine before we came along. More importantly, we forget that horses need to be horses, allowed to act in ways that are natural to them, not us. Interestingly, this same concept can be applied to the relationships we have with people in our lives.
While there may be some people who believe that inmates cannot, or should not be rehabilitated, returning them back to civilian life in a productive way is actually the original purpose of our prisons. Yet just how, may still evade us. So it may be surprising then that some prison programs have turned to equine therapy to do just that — rehabilitate inmates. And, perhaps not so surprisingly, it has been quite effective. Lets take a look at some of the benefits.
Stress can be both clandestine and insidious. Often, we don’t realize it’s there, as it sneaks up on us like the preverbal frog in hot water, until it overwhelms us. Yet, at the same time, undetected stress can have a very measurable and deleterious effect on cardiovascular health, immune function, weight, mood, and psychosocial functioning. At the same time, the number of ways to battle stress are about as numerous as the effects. While the efficacy of these methods vary widely, certainly the introduction of almost any type of pet therapy has been demonstrated to improve mood, lower anxiety levels, and boost overall sense of wellbeing.
While the promotion of equine therapeutic services for veterans is not new, few people are aware that there are actually multiple programs available for our veterans, and two that, although sharing the same name, are distinctly different. Horses For Heroes, which is now called Path International Equine Services For Heroes, is conducted through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, (PATH) while Horses4Heroes is an independent association.