What is Equine-Facilitated Therapy?
Equine-facilitated therapy is, in its broadest definition, any type of therapy or treatment that includes equine interactions, activities, or treatment strategies involving horses. It is an increasingly popular choice for people seeking assistance for a wide range of mental health issues. This form of experiential therapy is provided by a licensed mental health professional in a farm setting where the horses are incorporated to facilitate therapeutic change. Sessions involve clients working with a horse or group of horses with the guidance of a therapist and sometimes with an equine specialist present also. Most equine-assisted interventions are loosely based on using feedback from the horse’s behaviour and interactions to provide insight and enhance the therapeutic process. We believe that interactions with horses provide a unique opportunity and setting for clients to address treatment goals in a safe, non-judgmental, and experiential way.
Equine-facilitated therapy is intended to offer emotionally and physically safe experiences with horses to increase self-regulation capacities, improve inter and intra-personal relationships, build self-awareness, identify patterns of behaviour that no longer serve a healthy purpose, develop psychological and social skills, and address unique therapeutic goals. This may include healing from traumatic experiences, but such a background is not necessary for a client to benefit from equine-facilitated therapy. These experiences are conducted by trained professionals and may include observing horses up close and at a distance, meeting with horses at liberty, meeting a horse on lead-line, haltering, touching, grooming, leading, and incorporating other materials to represent metaphorical aspects of a client’s inner and outer world. The experiences are relational and focused on building the client’s resources. Equine-facilitated therapy is not focused on increasing horsemanship skills; however, teaching basics about equine safety, communication, and behaviour are necessary to mitigate the client’s risk.
The development of equine-facilitated therapies has been a natural extension of the healing bond that can develop between animals and humans. There is a growing body of research which strongly suggests that a sense of trust and safety can develop between a horse and a human as a precursor to change in human relationships. Additionally, horses provide a unique perspective as they rely primarily on their intuitive, primitive capacities and their awareness of non-verbal communication. From the moment humans enter the horse’s vicinity, the horse is providing information on the human’s emotional energy and physical state. This means that they can notice information that the human therapists may miss and create natural opportunities for healing. If you are interested in finding out if equine-facilitated therapy may be a good fit for you or a loved one, call or email to set up a consultation.
Who Would Benefit from Equine-Facilitated Therapy?
Equine-facilitated therapy can be undertaken by most clients who are interested in attending counselling. Research has shown that it can be effective in a number of areas. Those experiencing anxiety, depression, PTSD, relationship difficulties, grief/loss, attachment wounds, family conflict, addiction issues and childhood trauma can all benefit from equine-facilitated therapy.
Is There Riding Involved?
Equine-facilitated therapy at Linn Meadow Farm does not generally involve riding the horses. Time spent with horses is from the ground. There are some exceptions made dependent upon the treatment plan/goal.
How Do I Prepare for an Equine-Facilitated Therapy Session?
These sessions are conducted outdoors and in the barn, therefore it is important to dress for the weather. You must wear shoes that fully cover your feet. Sneakers or boots are good choices. Be prepared to get some dirt and sand on the shoes you choose to wear.
Are Equine-Facilitated Therapy Sessions Covered by Insurance?
Most extended health plans cover sessions with a Registered Clinical Counsellor. This would also apply to the sessions that include equine-facilitated therapy.