Looking for happiness? Look to horses.
Of course you’ve been telling your friends and family your horse is your therapist for years, but many psychologists will now back you up against those skeptical raised eyebrows. Horses are becoming an important part of mental health treatment, joining the ranks of therapy horses who assist people with physical disabilities. In this modern age, psychologists are using horses to make people happy, and it’s working.
Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is one way psychologists are enlisting horses to help humans with a variety of issues, including attention deficit disorder, substance addiction, depression, and communication problems. Some therapists get a handle on a client’s social anxiety by gauging the client’s reaction to a horse’s behavior; in other situations, they might look for the horse’s feedback on a client’s behavior. But perhaps most importantly for patients struggling with mental disorders, horses offer a simple, healthy relationship.
True, there isn’t much statistical data out there to convince naysayers that horses are the best therapists. Most of EAP’s success stories are case studies: individual stories of people who overcame trauma or mental disorders through the relationships and therapy they experienced with horses. That’s not slowing down the growth of EAP, however. The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) http://www.eagala.org/ now has more than 4,200 members in 49 countries, according to their website, and supports certification and continuous learning for EAP and EAL (Equine Assisted Learning) for everyone from military veterans to children in war zones.
EAGALA recognized programs have been featured on major news outlets, including ABC, The Baltimore Sun, and The Chicago Tribune. Around the world, horses are helping humans overcome domestic abuse, addiction, and trauma — even weight loss. And along the way, people are finding yet another way to keep horses employed and useful — EAP programs have partnered with organizations such as the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to provide second careers for retired racehorses.
Can horses provide humans with happiness? Horse people have felt that way for centuries. And now, with programs like Equine Assisted Therapy helping even the non-equestrian overcome obstacles in their life and move towards happiness, we have the proof.