The term Equine Assisted Therapies (EAT) refers to several specific therapeutic approaches that include horses in providing the therapy.
Hippotherapy is a form of therapy in which Occupational and/or Physical Therapist utilize rhythmical movement of the horse to provide activities that improve flexibility, muscle strength, and joint movement.
Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is a form of psychotherapy influenced by Gestalt and Experiential Theories, focusing on the here and now, and include the horse as co-therapist in all activities. These activities start with grooming the horse (of choice). This allows for the development of a relationship between the client and the horse. The horse mirrors the feelings of the client to the therapist ( and client), that are often difficult for the client to put into words. The other benefit of grooming is the affect the horses energy field has on the chemical on the human brain.The horse's energy field is huge and most will admit that after spending 20 minutes grooming the horse, they are more centered and calm.
Other activities such as leading and backing up, ground manners, and lungeing the horse in the round pen allow for opportunities for the client to learn about the importance of boundaries and respect, staying focused and balanced and the importance of completing an activity that one started. The 4 rules of training a horses are the same as training a child (parenting): 1. Mutual Respect, 2. Reasonable Expectations, 3. Consistency, and 4. Pressure and Release. We teach these concepts to both the client and parents. This therapeutic approach is very effective in working with children and adolescents with behavioral issues, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Autistic Spectrum Disorder as well as diagnoses of depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Eating Disorders, and Chemical Dependency.
Equine Experiential Learning (EEL) are experiential activities that allow participants (clients, families), to learn principles such as the value of self-control, discipline, and the respect for others boundaries. EAL activities are quite effective in family therapy, couples therapy, and team building activities. Enhanced self -awareness, changing of mal-adaptive behaviors, improved communication skills and effective expressions of feelings are also some of the benefits from EAL.
Equine Assisted Therapy(s) that include EFP and EEL can happen on the ground, on the horse, in the pasture, at the barn, or in the round pen. The emphasis is not teaching horse-back riding, but rather on the development of a special relationship between a horse and the client that offers unconditional acceptance and empowerment. Goal-specific activities are used that assist in the healing process. I