We underestimate our primal connections to other mammals, who are deeply relational creatures and have the ability to form similar attachment styles as humans do. We see animals, like horses, as things to play with and ride for fun without considering how their past experiences may impact their ability to stay present and receptive to new experiences. The benefits of equine therapy are bidirectional for both horses healing from insecure attachments and humans who desire healthy connection.
What is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy usually involves grooming, feeding, haltering, and leading horses rather than riding them. During students’ interactions with the horses, our equine-trained specialists observe and interact with students in order to identify behavior patterns and process their thoughts and emotions. As students learn to identify and take care of the horses’ needs, they learn how to be present in relationships and to recognize their own social needs. Equine therapy is an effective form of experiential therapy that is used to treat individuals who struggle with learning differences, low self esteem, depression, trauma, anger problems, social skills, and behavioral issues.
Horses are very sensitive to communication, both verbal and non-verbal, meaning they act as a powerful emotional mirror that helps to demonstrate the importance of controlling our emotions, setting boundaries, and building healthy relationships. As herd and prey animals, they have a strong emotional sense and use this as a survival tool, by responding to other horses’ emotions and never hiding their own. By reflecting emotions they sense in others, it can help students to identify their own underlying emotions and understanding that by walking away or being stubborn, horses are detecting their own fear and anger. Sensing a horse’s helplessness may bring up memories of sharing the same experience and open up conversations about their own past.
Many students build close attachments with the animals through individual or group equine sessions and may choose to reach out to them for support when they’ve had a rough day instead of communicating verbally. Many of the horses have also had histories of attachment issues and can empathize with many of the issues our students are struggling with. In order to build trust with horses, students work on their own emotional awareness and control, self esteem and self care, and unhealthy relationship patterns in individual therapy and in equine sessions.
Benefits of Equine Therapy:
- Developing a sense of responsibility
- Cultivating social awareness
- Reflecting on emotional experiences brought up by interactions
- Reduces anxiety
- Developing communication skills
- Improving problem-solving abilities
- Noticing how we show up in relationships
- Increasing empathy
- Learning how to care for and nurture others
How Can Asheville Academy Help
Asheville Academy is located on 97 acres in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and has over 27 animals on campus that are part of our animal therapy program, including horses, pigs, guinea pigs, bunnies, goats, ducks, and dogs.
Asheville Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for girls ages 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning differences, and attachment issues. Many of our students have struggled with making positive friends in school and are working on building appropriate social skills and communication skills. We are a relationship-based program that focuses on building meaningful face-to-face connections through teamwork, experiential activities, and equine therapy. We aim to help students that have dealt with bullying, abandonment, and rejection in relationships learn about their attachment styles and change the narratives they’ve internalized about their self-worth and potential for success.
Call 800-264-8709 today!