Equine therapy helps people with brain injuries in many ways. The unique bond between horses and humans has been forged over thousands of years and this special trust offers a profound connection.
Pate’s Equine-Assisted therapist Melody Dodson and her horses Streaker, Riot and TNO provide a way for patients to make a wordless connection that can help them access emotions that may not be available any other way.
Provided in good weather for patients whose diagnosis is appropriate, equine therapy includes grooming, walking in obstacle courses, directing and managing the horses which helps each client move toward their own specific goals.
This therapy offers physical, cognitive, emotional, and occupational therapy at once. And of course nuzzling and petting are very therapeutic, too! Therapy horse Streaker suffered a brain injury several years ago. It is amazing to see how this horse now helps others through EAP and EAL.
Because they are prey animals, horses are exquisitely sensitive to body language. They easily discern changes in voice tone and touch. Horses will often “mirror” the states of people, showing fear or shyness or openness or stress.
With a skilled therapist, patients can experience from the outside what is going on inside themselves by observing the horse and connecting with it. The horse offers a symbolic representation – a reflection – which can increase a person’s awareness of their emotional state.
The therapist helps guide patients to use this awareness for better impulse control, emotional management, responsibility and independence.
Equine-assisted therapies are not only immensely helpful, they can create a deeply positive experience for patients. The connection with animals that do not judge and do not discriminate can be life-altering.
Equine-assisted therapies help build:
- Self reliance
- Problem solving skills
- Understanding of consequences
- Emotional congruence
- Interpersonal connections
- Motor skills
- Sensory integration
- Muscle and posture control
- Range of motion
Equine Assisted Learning isn’t about riding skills, or learning how to groom a horse.
EAL and EAP focus on learning specific practical skills that can be used at home, work, or in school.
Even more, they provide ongoing physical, behavioral and emotional recovery. Equine therapy has been compared to ropes courses used for treatment and team building.
How it Works
Patients choose a horse to work with that day. They spend time in various activities guided by the therapist. Afterward, patients process their feelings about the session and note any insights.
Over time, the progress made can be truly astounding.