Healing with Horses: How We Use Equine Therapy to Help Our Students

Equine therapy is an integral part of our therapeutic process at Asheville Academy. Horses are not only beautiful, sweet creatures, but they also have the ability to recognize the underlying emotional state of humans.
When it comes to communication–something we work on extensively with our students–horses are especially sensitive. This allows them to act as a powerful tool in helping our students understand the importance of controlling our emotions and communicating clearly.

Learning to set healthy boundaries

Many of our girls grapple with boundaries–but with animals, you have to set clear boundaries and be firm in your responses. This helps our students become more confident in themselves and how to develop healthy relationships with others.

We use both full-sized horses and mini-horses. For girls who have some anxiety around the bigger horses, the tinier ones give the the opportunity to still interact and gain benefits. While miniature horses are smaller and obviously adorable, they’re still powerful animals that can cause harm.

This discussion often comes up more with the smaller horses because girls assume that because they’re the size of a dog that they can’t do any damage–which is very untrue. This provides the opportunity for our students to learn how to set healthy boundaries.

Around the miniature horses, it’s not uncommon for our girls to have to be reminded to set firm boundaries–even if what they’re doing seems cute. Nipping at a shirt can lead to nipping at your fingers, so it’s important to be clear and consistent. When we talk about this, we can also apply it to their real lives by asking questions: Where else does this issue show up? Where else are you needing to set boundaries, but allowing the unsafe behaviors to continue?

By talking about these questions in the frame of boundaries with the horses, our girls gain a different perspective. It opens a gateway to those types of conversations. Our girls begin to understand that setting boundaries isn’t just good for them, but it’s good for those around them as well.

Forming meaningful relationships and trust

You can’t lie to a horse. While you may be saying you’re okay on the outside, a horse can sense the uneasiness behind your facade. This creates a specific honesty and candor that sometimes can’t be reached within a regular session with a therapist.

Many of our girls at Asheville Academy struggle with building and maintaining relationships. Sometimes it’s mistrust, sometimes it’s because they never learned how to–nevertheless, it’s difficult for them.

In equine assisted therapy, our students are given a unique chance to not only form a sense of responsibility and pride, but a sense of meaningful connection and love they may not have been open to experiencing in previous relationships.

The sensitivity horses possess means that they react with restlessness when they sense something’s wrong. The horse acts as a mirror, allowing students to see their current challenge through a different lens and work through it.

Asheville Academy is here for your family

Equine therapy offers countless benefits for our girls. The horses help our girls not only face their personal challenges in new ways, but they act as a route for forming healthy connections with others.  

Asheville Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for girls, ages 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning differences, and other behavioral or emotional challenges. We understand that transitioning into middle school can be stressful for the whole family, but Asheville Academy is here to help.

With the help of our licensed therapists, experienced teachers, caring staff, and expertly designed program, our students move closer to a healthier life. We use the best tactics and therapeutic methods in order to help our students thrive at Asheville Academy.

For more information about equine assisted therapy at Asheville Academy, call 800-264-8709 today.

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