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A Look at the Science: How Equine Therapy Works

A young woman feeds an apple to a horse.

Recovery can take you through a revolving door of emotions. One minute, you’re hopeful and determined. The next, you feel lifeless and dull. It can be extremely hard to process all of your feelings, much less regulate them.

One of the goals of therapy is to help you learn to do all of that—and it really works.

But there are also days when you just don’t feel like opening up to another person. Or maybe you’re just tired of sitting around and talking. It could also be that you don’t feel like your therapist always understands exactly what you’re trying to say.

That’s where equine therapy comes in.

Here’s how it works: You’ll be paired up with both a trained therapist and a horse and its handler. Together, you’ll work to tackle your specific treatment goals and objectives.

But does equine therapy really work—and how?

Equine Therapy Research

It’s long been known that horses have the ability to recognize human emotions and mirror them back. So if you feel anxious, a horse can help you identify that feeling, whether or not you’re even aware of it.

But how? How can a horse get the message across that it’s picking up on your feelings of anxiety?

That’s a good question and, now, there’s a good answer. A study by scientists at the University of Sussex found that, in addition to body language, horses use 17 different facial movements to show emotions.

In another study, two researchers from Norway took a look at the benefits of animal-assisted therapy for people with psychiatric disorders.

Previous studies had shown the benefit of spending time with dogs or cats, but this was the first study to examine the effect of interacting with farm animals, including horses. Study participants visited a farm twice a week for three hours—for 12 weeks.

The result? Participants experienced a ‘significant increase’ in both self-efficacy and coping skills.

Does Equine Therapy Work?

While equine therapy is relatively new, both science and real-life experiences indicate that it does work.

In addition to the benefits of the therapy being done, there are other factors at play as well. You’re getting fresh air, sunshine and perhaps a bit of exercise. There’s also the feeling of unconditional acceptance that one experiences when spending time with horses.

It all comes together in a therapy session that is both effective—and enjoyable.

Recovery at The Raleigh House

The Raleigh House’s new location is set on 40 acres of land nestled on the eastern plains just outside of Denver. You’ll be able to wake up and see the sun rise over the prairie or head to the stables for an afternoon ride with views of the Rockies.

You’ll have both the space and the time to heal. Each person who walks through our doors is assigned his or her own therapist. Together, you’ll come up with a plan not just for your recovery, but for how you plan to deal with the joys and challenges of life once you leave rehab.

Contact us today to learn more about the drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs at The Raleigh House.

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