By Sheena J.
We all have been in a place where we think we had enough of everything. Life can be overwhelming especially when not so good things happen almost all at the same time. There are a lot of ways how we humans deal with the stress we feel. Some may opt for traditional therapies like traveling and going to a serene place where you can breathe fresh air and let some steam out. In some cases, medical interventions may be necessary and doctors can help you cope with life difficulties and physical health problems through medicines. But one alternative I will share with you today is something that most of us can relate to: the fulfillment we can get with animals, and in this case most especially from our horses.
It is not a mystery, nor a fable, that animals can be beneficial to one's physical or even mental stability. It's pure, relaxing, even sometimes nostalgic. Equine owners know this for a fact and have always felt more in tune with reality when they are with their buddies. Treatment with horses is an accepted form of therapeutic practice that is being done internationally, known as EAT or Equine Assisted Therapy. People suffering from ADD, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Depression, traumatic brain injuries and many other health problems gain incredible results participating in these programs. But what exactly do horses help us with that makes such a big difference in our own well-being? Below are some of the therapies used for individual healing with the EAT and their benefits.
Therapeutic Horseback Riding
This form of recreational therapy is one wonderful way of helping people who were affected by both medical and mental conditions in improving muscle tones, control, morale and overall well-being. Riders are taught on how to properly ride a horse, thus a great way to develop motor and sensory skills for balance, stance, and equilibrium. And since stability is enriched, it also helps reform core strength. The movement of the horse is different and it involves a design with swaying and forward motion. The rider, or the patient, must adapt to these patterns using his/her own muscle coordination, creating ways of making the upper body and lower extremities muscle's stronger.
Known as a great neuromuscular therapy not just for kids, but also for adults, this involves specially designed programs for posture and agility of the person with the disability. It came from the Greek word "hippos" which directly translates to "horse". Hippotherapy differs from Therapeutic Riding, the former being a medically established treatment tool, and the latter involves teaching the patients on how to properly ride horses. Hippocrates even coined horses as being therapy buddies as early as 400 B.C., but Physical Therapists started using the method just in the 1960's. Some diagnoses in which this will be deemed necessary are brain injury and cerebral palsy. The method itself can curtail spasticity using slow, rhythmic movements, improve visual-motor skills using techniques in which the rider must find small objects like puzzle pieces along the trail and even improving attention span especially with children, to name some of the benefits.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
This form of therapy is often mistaken as a treatment for the horses rather than for people. It is a kind of learning that lets people reflect and gain knowledge by interacting with horses. People from all walks of life may have some circumstances that may lead them to different mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, and if left untreated, may be debilitating enough to hinder these people from functioning on a regular basis. With EAP, patients learn how to properly interact with these horses and they form a bond that is so strong, it promotes confidence and self-awareness. Some of the horses used in these programs are abandoned horses who were in line to be euthanized either because of old age or they were not needed by their previous owners anymore. When horses start showing trust to the individuals undergoing the treatment, emotional resilience is created by the person. Other forms of mental health issues are also being treated using the EAP and have been proven to be very analeptic to the patients.
Horses have been regarded as therapeutic aids even by the ancient Greeks because of how they boost morale and were prescribed to people with gout and neurological conditions, as written in 17th-century literature where it was documented. In this modern day and age, we still cannot deny that horses make us better than who we were before having them in our lives. With this, I believe this lies with the trust we put in them, and them to us, enhancing the way we look at ourselves and at the world. Making the entire process not just enjoyable, but also the after-effects even better.
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