Equine Therapy

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Understanding Equine Therapy

Horses are highly intuitive, emotional, and intelligent animals.  They easily pick up on nonverbal cues and give us visible feedback we can utilize to better understand our own behavior.

At The Bridge to Recovery, we utilize horses and trained equine clinicians in the facilitation of the therapeutic process.  This modality is a favorite amongst our clients and is highly effective.

Equine Therapy
Equine Therapy

Benefits of Equine Therapy

  • Emotional Awareness
    As mentioned, horses respond to nonverbal cues that humans may not typically pick up on, or if they do, we are not responsive to their feedback.  Horses give us feedback, and with the help of a trained clinical professional, we can utilize that feedback to better understand our own behavior as well as others. 
  • Authentic Connection & Trust
    Trauma survivors often struggle with trust because at some point along the way safety was violated.  Working with horses helps us break down some of the defense systems that are not serving us well in life.  It also helps us experience or re-experience connection.
  • Self-Esteem Support 
    Working with the horses is a confidence boost, which supports our self-esteem growth.  
  • Problem Solving Skills
    Much of the exercises our equine clinicians use in the horse arena involve problem solving.  This helps bolster team building and communication within the group.
  • Communication Skills
    Many of us struggle to communicate our needs.  We either are not clear, we send mixed messages, we demand instead of ask, or a wide array of other communication hurdles.  Horses require us to give clear communication signals to get what we need from them, which helps us improve our verbal and nonverbal communication.
  • Letting Go
    Horses are large, powerful creatures.  For those of us with power and control struggles, the equine arena often helps when we attempt to use these defense symptoms on a horse.  Equine therapy helps us let go of power and control and learn balance, empathy, understanding, and the value of a mutually beneficial relationship.
  • Impulse Control
    Because horses are sensitive by nature, our behavior around them must be intentional and communicated, while balancing the horse giving you permission to act accordingly.  This process helps us gain a better understanding of being intentional.

Why Equine Therapy Works

Equine Therapy continues to grow in its field of study, and research continues to show why it is effective against anxiety, depression, and many other mental health issues.

Equine Therapy is experiential.

Experiential therapies are just that – an experience.  Many people find success in traditional talk therapy, but when combined with experiential therapies, they find greater success.  Experiential therapies can benefit us in a number of ways with just one exercise (or experience).

Horses are non-judgmental. 

While in the arena with a horse, it really wants one thing from us: to know what we want from it.  They do not harbor ill will, preconceived notions, stereotypes, prejudices, or judgements like human can.  This makes interacting with a horse often feel safer than interacting with a fellow human, thus allowing us to receive the lesson with a clearer and more accepting mindset.

Equine Therapy

Horses can give us feedback in ways we cannot easily get from humans.

Already mentioned several times – horses are very sensitive.  This is because horses rely on all their senses – sight, smell, touch, sound.  Humans give off nonverbal cues that we created as our communication skills developed.  Because horses rely on their senses, they are able to give us feedback from a whole different perspective than a human could.

Equine Therapy at The Bridge to Recovery

Our clients participate in equine therapy throughout their time in our program.  It is required, unless the client is medically unable to participate (i.e. an allergy to horses, etc.). Our equine program is held on an adjacent property to our own in a beautiful covered horse arena.  We utilize equine therapy year round.

Equine Therapy

Fear of Horses

We recognize that horses are large and powerful animals.  Some folks have a fear of their size and power, while others may have had a negative experience which left them in fear of horses.  

Please share this with your intake coordinator during the admission process, but we will ask that you still plan to participate, with the following understanding:

  • Our equine clinicians are trained to help address fear in a number of capacities.  Often, they will help you overcome your fear.  However, at the very least, even observing the activities will be beneficial.
  • Our equine clinicians describe the horses in our equine program as “the Labradors of the horse world.”  Traditionally, we use Tennessee Walking Horses, a breed of horse known for its calm temperament.
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The Bridge to Recovery is a transformational residential program located 45 minutes north of Nashville, Tennessee in beautiful rural Kentucky.  We provide hope, healing, and happiness to those suffering.
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