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What Is Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy?

Equine facilitated psychotherapy is a therapeutic approach involved with riding horses.
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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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Equine facilitated psychotherapy is the name given to a therapeutic approach involving riding horses. For most people, the main aspect of the therapy is simply learning to ride horses and spending time with them. Experts suggest this is a good way to deal with patients who haven’t had much success with more conventional methods, partly because it is mostly an internal process that the patient goes through on his own, rather than a guided process with a therapist pushing the patient along. It’s been successful in soothing many different kinds of inner turmoil and has even proven successful in helping some autistic patients.

Some experts think that one of the main benefits of equine facilitated psychotherapy is the fact that patients are often nervous or afraid in the beginning. Horses are large animals, and many people may be intimidated by them when they first start the process. Overcoming that fear and becoming more comfortable in the presence of such an imposing creature can often be helpful for a person’s self-confidence.

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There is also often a feeling of empowerment some people experience while riding horses, and that may be another major reason for the effectiveness of equine facilitated psychotherapy. This may be partly because during a horse ride, people have a higher vantage point, allowing them to gaze down on the world in a unique way. This benefit is also often combined with the empowering notion that the patient can dictate which direction he wants the horse to take, and the animal will generally obey even though it’s much larger and more powerful than the patient.

People also often yearn for new challenges in their lives, and overcoming those challenges can be an intoxicating experience. When the person first begins equine facilitated psychotherapy, he will probably ride very slowly under highly-controlled circumstances, and gradually, he is often able to build up to the point of riding at a full gallop unaccompanied. This process can be seen as a life-quest of sorts, and succeeding can be very helpful for some patients.

During the process, the patient is also often challenged in the area of communication. There will usually be a teacher that the person will have to deal with during the therapy, and also there is the horse itself. Some people come away from equine facilitated psychotherapy feeling that they’ve greatly improved their interpersonal skills through the simple practice of having to use them in a real-life experience.

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