Equine therapy has become a highly successful treatment modality for many disabilities, illnesses and therapies, but has become extremely useful in treating patients with substance abuse issues. The sessions are supervised by an Equine Therapist and usually a horse professional. Patients are tasked with grooming, feeding, haltering and leading the horses. Through these tasks patients learn a number of things about themselves and how they may impact relationships. They can experience how their actions directly affect the energy of others, and through that they find a harmony with the horses that allows them to take responsibility for themselves and also care for the well-being of these beautiful animals. Equine Therapy also teaches patients important skills, such as assertiveness, emotional awareness, empathy, flexibility, tolerance, coping with stress, impulse control, self-actualization, independence, and social responsibility.
While this may seem an unconventional form of treatment, in actuality equine therapy provides an unusual opportunity for the therapist and patient to explore relationships in a unique and nontoxic manner. Because the horses are non-judgmental, have o expectations or motives and meet each individual precisely where they are and for who they are, they mirror the attitudes and behaviors of the humans and allow much to be revealed about the patient in a non-threatening way. This may lead to patients recognizing their own self doubt or tendency to engage in self defeating thoughts and actions. These realizations then become the basis for further discussion and examination.
Ultimately, the goals of equine therapy are teaching the patients accountability, responsibility, self-confidence, self-control and problem solving skills. Equine therapy also provides a platform through which the therapist and patient can explore and address emotional and behavioral challenges.