You’ve probably heard of pet therapy animals that provide comfort to people suffering through trauma. These dogs and cats give humans an uplifting experience thanks to the unconditional love showed by these furry friends.
Did you know that horseback riding is also a great therapeutic tool? Although horses may not give you wet kisses or sit on your lap, horseback riding is a fantastic way to bond with an animal while exploring the great outdoors.
Horseback riding is more than just getting into a saddle and riding around for a few hours. People learn how to care for animals, put a saddle on a horse and feed the horses they ride. Experiences can last a day or several weeks, depending on the program.
The technical term is equine-assisted therapy. Horse centers near major metropolitan areas, and ranches in rural settings, give people who need physical and emotional healing a chance to get up close and personal with horses. The horses are gentle and trained to provide support for people who need assistance in healing. Meanwhile, those who go through this therapy come away from their time empowered and feeling better.
Responses at Any Age
Horses can help anyone at any age or skill level. One story out of the American southwest talks about Karisma, a 12-year-old chestnut horse who bonded with Amelia Grace. The 6-year-old little girl’s physical disability adversely affects her motor skills and development and causes her anxiety. Her peers often don’t understand Amelia, so her parents decided to enroll her in a horse therapy program. Karisma was the perfect match for Amelia, because she was rescued from an abusive situation. Both Karisma and Amelia were outcasts, and both realized they needed each other to help heal.
Karisma outweighs the little girl by more than 1,000 pounds, yet the youngster learned to lead the horse to a stall, tie it up and ride her charge. Amelia, through her own abilities to bond with Karisma, improved her own self-esteem as she faces extraordinary challenges in her young life that most kids find mundane. Karisma’s companionship may well save Amelia’s life. The key moment happened when Amelia realized that Karisma was just a normal horse despite what the animal endured in her younger years. Since Karisma and Amelia both struggled earlier in their lives, Amelia concluded her situation was okay, too.
Horse therapy helps wounded warriors heal their PTSD. It's as if the horse provide a calming effect for everyone involved in this type of therapy.
Reasons for Horse Therapy
There are many reasons people should seek out equine-assisted therapy as a means to heal the mental and physical wounds in their lives. Not only do horses provide unconditional support, but they are strong when the riders are weak. Horses help bring out the best in people, but the reasons for riding horses go beyond that.