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Horses and Healing

Amber Freund

What better way to make someone feel comfortable than with a furry friend? Some people are dog lovers, some prefer cats, but what about horses? I will be the first to admit that horses aren’t the first thing that pop into mind when I think of Animal Assisted Therapy, but horses provide a unique opportunity for growth. What I’m referring to is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)!

Equine assisted psychotherapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy using the horse as a therapeutic tool (Schultz, Remick-Barlow, & Leslie, 2007) and consists of a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professionally working with clients to address a wide range of treatment goals (Wilson, Buultjens, Monfries, & Karimi, 2017). Depending on the goal of therapy, the therapy process can look very different for each client. EAP can be used with individuals, couples, and families and doesn’t actually consist of working on horsemanship or horseback riding skill. You don’t actually need experience with horses to participate. Instead, it is more of engaging in activities with the horses on the ground and then discussing feelings, behaviors, and patterns.

Horses, by nature are extremely sensitive to their surroundings and toward anyone within their surroundings. A horse’s response can tell us a number of things, including how we may appear to the outside world, how we interact with others, our ability to communicate, and our ability to establish trust (Ashenfelter Counseling, n.d.). Ashenfelter Counseling reports that individuals who participate in equine assisted therapy have significantly lower stress hormone levels, reductions in psychological distress, can become more independent, self-supported, and better able to live in the present with less regrets, resentment, and guilt (n.d.). Additionally, research suggests that some of the ways EAP can be helpful include addressing self-esteem and personal confidence, verbal and nonverbal communication, interpersonal effectiveness, coping skills, trust, boundaries, limit-setting, and group cohesion (Schultz, Remick-Barlow, & Leslie, 2007).

Feeling interested? If so, there are some local places that might be of interest to you.

Located in Northboro, IA

  • Offers Individual, Group, Couple Psychotherapy, and other services like Horse Powered Reading and Equine Assisted Learning!
  • Phone: 712-534-2250

Email: [email protected]

  • Equine Connections, LLC

    • Located in Okoboji, IA 51388
    • Only offers Equine Assisted Learning, Not Psychotherapy. For those with a serious mental illness, it is required that a participant also be seen by a licensed therapist separately.
    • Phone: 712-260-1710
    • Email: [email protected]
    • https://equineconnectionsaz.com



“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Winston Churchill 


Schultz, P., Remick-Barlow, G. A., & Robbins, L. (2007). Equine-assisted psychotherapy: a mental health promotion/intervention modality for children who have experienced intra-family violence. Health & Social Care in the Community, 15(3), 265-271. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2524.2006.00684.x

Wilson, K., Buultjens, M., Monfries, M., Karimi, L. (2017). Equine-assisted psychotherapy for adolescents experiencing depression and/pr anxiety: A therapist’s perspective. Clinical Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 22(1), 16-33. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359104515572379

Notgrass, C. G., & Pettinelli, J. D. (2015). Equine assisted psychotherapy: The equine assisted growth and learning association’s model overview of equine-based modalities. Journal of Experiential Education, 38(2), 162-174. https://doi.org/10.1177/1053825914528472

Ashenfelter & Associates. (n.d.). Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Ashenfelter Counseling. http://www.ashenfeltercounseling.com/services/equine-assisted-psychotherapy/

Horse Sense of the Carolinas, Inc. (2020). Family Issues. Horse Sense. https://www.horsesenseotc.com/family-issues

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