Horses are uncommonly sensitive to non-verbal communication. They remain mentally and physically prepared to respond to their environment in the present moment. Their overall surroundings dictate their behavior, directly or indirectly altering the therapeutic energy throughout an equine therapy session. Client, horse, and trained specialists work together on specific treatment plans that utilizes the horse in different ways.
The different approaches to equine therapy include:
Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)
This includes a mental health professional, an equine specialist, and horses all working together to heal the patient. EAP is the use of horses to treat psychological problems. Usually, this sort of treatment method utilizes groundwork with horses, such as grooming, feeding, and ground exercises. This allows patients to learn more about themselves, their behavior, feelings, and thought patterns. In sum, the goal of EAP is to help in social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral ways.
Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL)
This experiential learning approach promotes the development of life skills through equine-assisted activities including grooming and feeding. EAL helps patients with a heightened development of self-awareness and to think in a new way. The three main areas of concentration in EAL are education, professional development, and personal development. Clients will gain self-confidence by learning how to work with a large animal and how non-verbal communication is important and can affect others in their lives.
“Hippo” comes from the Greek word for horse. During hippotherapy, clients with speech deficits or other physical disabilities work with a riding team to develop posture and muscle strength. Hippotherapy often involves an occupational, physical, or speech and language therapist. A handler controls the horse and leads it through several different gaits, tempos, and directions. The different movements of the horses will challenge the rider to use different postural responses, thereby strengthening the muscles of the rider.