Equine therapy, also known as equine- assisted therapy model or EAP, is a treatment that includes equine activities or an equine environment to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth in persons with a myriad of afflictions from anxiety and depression to dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome and more. It is also beneficial for treating patients who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries or those who’ve experienced abuse and drug and alcohol addiction.
Equine Therapy is experiential in nature, meaning that participants learn about themselves and others by taking part in activities with the horses, and then processing or discussing feelings, behaviors, and patterns. This approach has been compared to the ropes courses used by therapists, treatment facilities, and human development courses around the world. But EAP has the added advantage of utilizing horses, dynamic and powerful living beings.
According to the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) as we all know, horses are large and powerful. Their size alone creates a natural opportunity to overcome fear and develop confidence. Working alongside a horse, in spite of an trepidation one might have, creates confidence and provides wonderful insight when dealing with other intimidating, scary and challenging situations in life.
By providing child victims and patients with a less-threatening and non-clinical therapeutic environment, EAP follows the premise that it is easier for a child to “project” his/her feelings on an animal than onto another person and that the child’s self-esteem is buoyed by the animal’s faculty for supplying the child’s need for companionship and unconditional acceptance (Levinson, 1969; Karol, 2007). Thus, it provides an effective treatment modality for children who have experienced trauma.