You have a variety of therapeutic choices to think about if you suffer from an anxiety illness. Additionally, not all of these methods are used in a therapist's office.
Equine-assisted therapy, which entails caring for and spending time with horses under the supervision of a mental health professional, is one method of treating anxiety outside of the office.
Hamer Equine Assisted Learning [ H.E.A.L.] offers a tranquil space for participants to experience the unique benefits of Equine Therapy in Victoria, Australia. H.E.A.L. offers physically and psychologically safe experiences with horses.
You won't need to ride, and this method doesn't call for any prior horseback riding knowledge. Instead, you can choose to spend your sessions guiding, feeding, or petting horses—or even just observing them.
Any of the following actions, according to a 2015 study, could be helpful:
- increase personal understanding and self-awareness
- encourage awareness - reduce tension, worry, or other negative emotions - alleviate various forms of emotional pain, such as depression-related symptoms.
Do you want to know precisely how horses might assist reduce the signs of anxiety? Are you or a loved one considering equine-assisted therapy as a possible course of treatment?
Learn more about equine-assisted therapy for anxiety in the sections that follow, including what to anticipate from a session, significant research findings, and how to locate a therapist that uses horses.
What to anticipate during a session
Depending on the kind of program, each treatment session will often contain some of the following activities:
- spending time studying how horses behave
- brushing and caring for a horse
- providing goodies or food
- walking a horse inside a confined space
directing a horse through a route or obstacle course
Why do these things? There are several causes:
Simple, routine grooming procedures can calm you down and comfort you.
The act of merely guiding the horse may reduce anxiety because walking may lift your mood.
You may develop a relationship with the horse by feeding and caring for it.
Your therapist will accompany you and provide advice while you work with the horse at all times. They could inquire about your findings and give assistance in examining any uneasy emotions or insightful ideas that emerge during the encounter.
Depending on the paradigm employed, equine-assisted therapy might seem extremely different from person to person. Some people utilize horses quite purposefully, developing a bond and relationship with them in order to deal with issues of fear, trauma, or trust.
Why do horses?
You may already be aware of some of the therapeutic advantages that animals, whether they be cherished pets or emotional support animals, may offer.
The same is true for horses.
These extremely gregarious, intelligent creatures engage with the rest of their herd using noises and body language, much as they do when speaking to people. In reality, what gives them a special place in the therapeutic process is their capacity to identify and react to human emotions.
According to Prudence Fisher, co-director of the Man O' War Project at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, interaction with horses can promote understanding and behavioral changes through the growth of emotional ties. In order to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues, this study intends to investigate and assess the efficacy of equine-assisted therapy.
According to Fisher, those with anxiety may also benefit since they experience many of the same symptoms as those with PTSD, including hypervigilance, tenseness, avoidance of people or objects, insomia or restlessness, irritability, and changes in mood and thought.
There are several ways that working with horses might assist with anxiety issues.
They can encourage the control of emotions.
The fact that horses are prey animals is a significant characteristic that sets them apart for therapeutic purposes.
As a result, they are extremely sensitive to their surroundings and are able to detect others' emotional states. They can assist clients learn to control their emotions and communicate more effectively by providing feedback on how their behaviors influence other people.
You may feel so overwhelmed with anxiety that you are unable to control your emotions or communicate them effectively to others or to yourself.
You learn how to successfully interact with horses via equine-assisted therapy. The horse will probably interact with you when you employ these techniques. This may strengthen your faith in your capacity to relate to others and your confidence in your communication abilities.
They are able to impart trust and vulnerability.
Horses are pretty dang big, as you've surely seen. A fully mature horse may weigh up to 1,000 pounds, if not more; this fact might evoke feelings of fragility and terror.
The size of the horse might raise trust and fear concerns that are hard to replicate in a talk therapy situation,
You must respect horses and be aware that they might respond in ways that are surprising in order to deal with them safely.
It's only normal to feel a bit insecure around a creature that size, but bear in mind that horses are kind and approachable. You may create a mutually beneficial connection by respecting their limits and use your own body language and gestures to react to their behavioral indications.
Knowing you can deal with such a large animal could increase your self-assurance and eventually make you feel more at ease while dealing with ordinary circumstances that cause dread and stress.
They offer a change of scenery.
Equine-assisted therapy takes place outside, frequently in a beautiful natural setting.
There is mounting evidence that spending time in nature may enhance mood and lessen emotions of stress, anger, and anxiety. So, especially if you like spending time outside, you could discover that the natural environment alone helps ease some of your constant anxiety and concern.
Fisher points out that if talk therapy and other conventional methods haven't been very successful for you, the fresh, cheerful environment may be very helpful.
Perhaps you find it difficult to put your worry into words or have trouble identifying the root cause and particular triggers. This process could be sped up by a change in scenery, especially if a horse is involved who can mirror your feelings and attitude.
Your therapist could draw attention to the way the horse reacts to you if they see that you appear abnormally tense, angry, or on edge. This could make it simpler for you to name those emotions and eventually start a conversation about the problems you're thinking about.
You may learn mindfulness techniques from them.
Focus and concentration are needed while interacting with horses.
For starters, you'll need to keep an eye on the horse's movements and be aware of your own behavior to avoid startling or upsetting them.
But you'll also keep an eye on the horse's comments as you go through your lesson. Do they appear at ease and open to your approach and touch? What are they saying with their vocalizations and body language? (Your therapist will provide you with more instruction in deciphering horse language as part of the therapeutic process.)
All of this necessitates that you stay focused on the here and now, not allowing your mind to wander to the past or the future.
Trusted source, acceptance, openness, and curiosity can be encouraged by this state of mindfulness, which is characterized by judgment-free awareness of your feelings and thoughts, bodily sensations, and external surroundings. These modifications may even last beyond your session, particularly if you develop the practice of practicing mindfulness.
In large part through being attentive to the horse's emotions, since horses offer clear and consistent feedback that mirrors the mood and messages you transmit, equine-assisted therapy may help you reflect on your feelings, behaviors, and interactions with other creatures, according to Fisher.
Additionally, undesirable habits or behaviors, such as anxiety reactions like ruminating, can be interrupted with increased attention. This might be especially helpful when you deal with the cause of your worry.
Take trauma as an example. There is evidence that childhood trauma, such as abandonment or maltreatment, may cause anxiety in adults.
Devoille cites the example of a horse backing away as you try to connect with it as evidence that interacting with horses might trigger ancient brain connections created when a traumatic event occurred. The horse's reaction can make you think of a loved one leaving you when you were a youngster.
In such moments, we may become aware of how we are responding to the events, alter how we are interacting with the horse, and allow for a different experience to happen.