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Three Ways to Improve Relationship Communication Using Equine Therapy

Equine therapy has certainly been popular for autism, developmental disorders and now veterans with PTSD, but for clinical therapists, the bulk of cases have to do with relationships. The question then becomes, can equine therapy help improve relationships?

The answer, is yes, and here are three ways:

  1. Energy awareness.People are often very unaware of the energy they bring into a relationship and how this energy may affect others. This energy that I am referring to is of course, housed nonverbally, but yet felt and often unintentionally expressed.While people are frequently hesitant to mention to another person just how their energy may be affecting them, horses, on the other hand, simply react to it. By shying away from someone who is very angry, for example, or protecting someone who is very vulnerable, a horses response to a person’s energy can illuminate and clarify the energy a person brings into a relationship.

    2. Exploring expectations. When faced with teaching a horse a skill, a person’s expectations of the horse, but in a more general sense, of others, comes to the forefront in a very visual way. As with energy, people are often quite unaware of the expectations they bring into a relationship and just how these may affect others.

    Through experiencing the effect of these expectations on a horse, people can draw similarities between how the horse may be reacting and how their partner may be reacting.

    3. Learning communication style. People communicate in different ways, and as with expectations and energy, knowing just how to communicate, and how it affects others, often escapes us. So when a horse responds in a characteristic way, it can demonstrate for a person just how their approach affects others.

    This can be something as simple as wanting something to happen, but asking for it in a way that is simply too meek for anyone to hear. Of course in this circumstance, the horse will not respond, just as any other person would not, having not heard the message. In a circumstance such as this, the person can then practice altering their communication style to achieve the desired ends, in a way that is much less emotionally charged than with their partner.

While this is only a summary of a few of the ways working with horses can help improve relationships, there are a multitude of unique and useful exercises that many therapists have developed to increase trust, improve empathy and foster increased mutual respect between two people.

Two horses photo available at Shutterstock.

Three Ways to Improve Relationship Communication Using Equine Therapy

Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT

Claire Dorotik-Nana LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in post-traumatic growth, leveraging adversity, and other epic human achievements. Claire has written multiple continuing education courses for Professional Development Resources, Zur Institute, and International Sport Science Association. Claire has also authored multiple books, including:
Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards and On The Back Of A Horse: Harnessing The Healing Power Of The Human-Equine Bond. For more information about Leveraging Adversity or Claire, visit

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APA Reference
Dorotik-Nana, C. (2012). Three Ways to Improve Relationship Communication Using Equine Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 May 2012
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