At first glance, the idea of using horses to treat people trying to break free from addiction may not make sense. After all, an equine therapy program has nothing to do with going riding. Instead, it focuses on having clients interact with the horses so clients can make positive changes in their own lives.
Horses Well Suited For Therapy Work
Horses are particularly well suited to this type of work, since they are highly intelligent animals. Their intuition allows them to read the emotions of the people they are working with. Clients, who likely have burned a number of bridges in their relationships with humans in their lives, get a start fresh with someone who will take them completely at face value.
The horse has absolutely no preconceived notions about who the client is based on his or her past behavior. The horse only knows the client based on who that person is in the present. Equine addiction therapy sessions give clients a chance to develop skills where they will need to learn how to approach a horse, gain the animal's trust, overcome difficulties, and learn how to ask for help when necessary.
Bonding With A Horse During Equine Therapy
One of a horse's interesting qualities is its ability to mirror the moods of the people around it. If the client is being stubborn, the horse will act in the same manner. Clients will have to learn how to get outside of themselves and respond to the horse with affection to accomplish the task at hand. Over time, they will develop a bond of mutual affection, trust, and empathy.
This type of therapy will also help clients learn respect, self-control, and unconditional acceptance. The horse may be a big and powerful animal, but it must be cared for by humans. By performing grooming activities, feeding and providing water for the animal, the client takes responsibility for something other than him or herself.
Since addiction is such a self-centered disease, this is an important factor. Someone who is using drugs or alcohol gets so wrapped up in the cycle of consuming, recovering, and then finding more drugs or alcohol, that they can lose interest in activities or relationships which were once important to them. Working with the horse forces the client to keep his or her focus outward, instead of thinking about feeding the addiction.
Positive Personal Outcome After Equine Therapy
With time, clients involved in this type of program will find that their attitude will shift. Not only will they be able to see themselves in a more positive way, but they will find it easier to interact with others in their personal and professional lives. The strategies they learn from interacting with the horses can be transferred to a number of other situations. These strong, yet gentle animals really do hold the key to helping addicts make positive changes in their lives.