What Is Equine-Assisted Therapy?

Equine-assisted therapy is a treatment involving equine activities for the growth of those who have cognitive or physical challenges.

Who can benefit from equine-assisted therapy?

At TROT, we use equine-assisted therapy to treat:

  • Individuals with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders

  • Individuals with sensory processing issues such as attention deficit and autistic spectrum disorders

  • Individuals with other special needs

  • Individuals with anxiety or depression

  • Individuals recovering from stroke or surgery

  • Adolescents struggling through difficult teen years

  • Veterans adjusting back to life after returning from war

Why Horses?

Interaction with animals affects people on a positive level. Horses, as herd animals, communicate primarily through body language. Therefore, they react to our body language. This provides powerful and immediate feedback to participants on what they are communicating non-verbally.

Participants learn that if they want to change the horse’s behavior, they first must change their own feelings, actions, and thoughts.

Additionally, there’s something really cool about such a huge animal graciously submitting to the wishes of such a small human. And don’t forget- it’s fun!

How does this work in therapy?

Since horses are quite sensitive to moods, they can typically tell if the participant is upset, angry, or happy. Therefore, they react predictably to the moods of the participant.

By reading the horse’s behavioral cues, the therapist can often provide immediate and valuable feedback to the client about their own nonverbal cues and make great strides in helping participants change their own presentation.

At TROT, we work hard to identify each individual’s strengths and help them form a plan to capitalize on these strengths so that they may succeed in life.

Benefits & Outcomes

The idea that a rider can control such a strong and powerful animal, simply by asking correctly, creates self-confidence in a way that little else can.

As confidence grows in a rider, so do their milestone accomplishments in therapy, at school, and at home.

Riders find themselves much more willing to engage in responsibilities in the home, participate in school tasks and create new friendships.

Teens learn to trust their own judgment and turn away from inappropriate peer pressure. Middle school children learn to stand up to bullying and be confident in their own abilities. Elementary school children receive valuable early interventions to help them deal with the challenges they may face from ADD, ADHD, and various learning disabilities.

Individuals with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders

Individuals with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders have found that they can loosen joints, stretch muscles, and improve overall physical function, all while having a good time.

Clients with severe disabilities can experience the sensation of a normal walk by riding a horse. This is because a horse’s walk has a similar stride, hip movement, and cadence to that of a human.

Individuals with sensory processing issues

TROT helps individuals with sensory processing issues such as attention deficit and autistic spectrum disorders learn to cope with a world that seems overwhelming to them, manage their anxiety, and find their unique strengths that will help them excel.

In these kinds of disorders, the two halves of the brain do not fire in sync with each other. The forward lateral motion felt by the rider works to synchronize the brain so that it works properly, and learning occurs with greater ease. Sometimes riding sessions are followed by classroom type sessions, where learning is reinforced.

Individuals with mental or social disabilities

For clients with mental or social disabilities, the horse serves as a non-judgmental confidant and a trusted friend.

The interaction between our client and their horse becomes the platform for therapists to help them deal with learning disabilities, grief, anxiety and more.

Foster and Adopted Kids

Foster and adopted kids have special needs that are not met through traditional therapeutic methods. At TROT we offer a special therapy created specifically for foster and adopted kids to address the neurological, social, attachment and developmental challenges they face. Check out this program on our STABLE MOMENTS page.