Why Equine Therapy for Troubled Girls is Effective

Animal-assisted therapy has become increasingly popular - and for a good reason. Animal-assisted therapy, namely, equine therapy, is provenly effective in therapeutic settings to help overcome behavioral and mental health-related issues and those who have experienced emotionally traumatic experiences.

What Is Equine Therapy?

As the title suggests, equine-assisted therapy is a therapy that revolves around engaging in activities - such as grooming, feeding, and riding - horses under the supervision of a specially trained mental health professional. 

Equine therapy is provenly effective in helping patients develop and hone skills such as emotional regulation, self-confidence, and personal responsibility. 

As previously mentioned, equine therapy has exploded in popularity. Its experimental approach and evidence tactics are typically referred to as the following terms: 

  • Equine-assisted mental health
  • Equine-assisted counseling
  • Equine-facilitated psychotherapy
  • Equine-assisted therapy

History of Equine Therapy

While the rise in modern equine therapy may be relatively recent, horses' therapeutic use has been used since ancient Greece. The Greek “Father of Medicine” Hippocrates famously wrote about the therapeutic benefit of horseback riding. 

However, equine therapy's modern application can trace its roots to the late 60’s North American Riding for Handicapped Association, later reformed as the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. 

Equine Therapy’s Application 

Equine therapy, or Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) - which can be used in one-on-one or group counseling settings - is an eclectic treatment that can treat various mental health-related issues. 

Since it is not often used as a sole treatment, equine therapy is commonly referred to as supplemental or complementary psychotherapy. It is commonly used in conjunction with traditional mental health treatments. 

Proponents of EAP state it is effective for a variety of reasons, namely, its experientially environmental aspects. (eg. Bringing patients outdoors where they can use all their senses while processing through emotional challenges). 

Children and Teens

EAP is especially effective in treating adolescents who suffer from trauma, clinical anxiety, depressive disorders, PTSD, and other severe mental health-related issues. 

Equine therapy effectively treats youth because teens feel less threatened and put on the spot with traditional one-on-one talk therapy. This is especially helpful because teens - whose frontal lobe is not yet fully developed - often find it intimidating and difficult to talk about emotional pain and trauma.  

How Equine Therapy Helps Troubled Teen Girls 

Among the many benefits of equine therapy is the emotional bond it builds between horse and rider. Horses are susceptible when it comes to how their rider is feeling. This hypersensitivity has made horses the ideal mode of transportation for thousands of years - and what makes them great emotionally therapeutic companions for troubled teenage girls. 

Horses, in a sense, can reflect the inner emotions of its rider. For instance, if a depressed and anxious teenage girl is riding a horse, the horse can read their rider’s feelings. While in a hyper anxious or depressive state, the teen will have difficulty instructing the horse on what they want the horse to do or where they want it to go. Therefore, for the teen to successfully control the horse, she must first calm herself. Through this process of symbiotic emotional reading, the teenage girl and horse can “sync up” meditatively, thus experientially teaching the teen how to navigate her emotional trauma properly.

Another important aspect of equine treatment is grooming, feeding, and all-around taking care of the horse. In addition to learning responsibility, troubled teen girls can build a stronger emotional bond with the horse who is fully dependent upon the teen. This bond creates endorphins in both horse and rider that naturally primes the troubled teen to more easily receive other means of therapy. 

Equine Assisted Therapy is Effective In Treating the Following Issues in Teenage Girls: 

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anger management
  • Depression/Suicidal ideation
  • Eating disorders
  • Defiance
  • Family relationship deterioration
  • Mood disorders
  • Substance abuse/Addictive behaviors
  • Poor academic performance
  • Anxiety
  • loss of motivation