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Coastal Community | Animals | June 23, 2017

Equine Therapy and How Horses Can Heal the World

Animals Coastal Community Pet & Animal Equine Blue Collar Country Mindset Homesteader Farmer

Horses have long been part of the human world. They’ve helped us with farming, transportation, and companionship. They’re also a great form of therapy for kids as well as adults. Especially those with ADD, anxiety, autism, a delay in mental development, down syndrome, depression, brain injuries, and other trauma such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Equine therapy can even be used as a way of reaching troubled youth.

Horse-centered therapy has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks. In the late 17th century, equine therapy was used to treat gout, some recognized neurological disorders, and what would later be described as depression.

It wasn’t until 1992 that equine therapy was formalized in the U.S. with the formation of the American Hippotherapy Association, which established standards for the field.

Types of Therapy

Equine therapy uses evidence based practices and clinical reasoning. In other words, there’s a science to it. Essentially, a bond is created between the patient and the horse, with therapists and instructors involved. Forms of therapy include:

  • Therapeutic Horseback Riding: involves a certified therapeutic riding instructor, several volunteers, and a          horse.
  • Hippotherapy: includes an occupational therapist, a speech and language therapist, or a physiotherapist.
  • Equine-assisted Learning: helps a person to develop life skills.
  • Equine-assisted Psychotherapy: includes grooming, feeding and ground exercise.

Taking the Reins

At Healing Reins Therapeutic Riding Center in Central Oregon, caring professionals and a stable of horses are changing lives. Polly Cohen, Program Director at Healing Reins has plenty of heartwarming stories to share about shy kids who made friends and gained confidence, and veterans who found a renewed purpose and new ways of coping with disabilities.

“One gentleman, a wartime vet who struggles with PTSD, was lost,” Polly carefully explained. “Here he found something to look forward to every week.”

That veteran bonded with one of the center’s horses, and his therapy quick became a shining part of his week.

For those in treatment, it’s easy to forget that this is a form of therapy.

“When kids and teens come out here, they’re able to relax. They turn off the Xbox and learn how to groom a horse and care for something other than themselves,” she added.

Focusing on America’s Heroes

Healing Reins and other centers like it take a special interest in helping our military veterans by offering free therapy to those who need it. The number of wounded heroes who can benefit from equine therapy is steadily growing, according to the Wounded Warrior Project.

As startling as it may sound, the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder states that up to 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffer from PTSD. And 30% of those who went to Vietnam struggle to cope with the effects of the disorder. In addition, for every U.S. soldier who falls in the line of duty, another seven are injured.

Horses and horse therapy can help those service men and women talk through their problems, better cope with life, and gain a new sense of purpose and perspective.

What Makes a Good Therapy Horse?

The best horses are those that have experience with dressage, roping, ranching, extensive trail riding, or 4-H. Therapy horses can walk, trot, and canter with ease, get along with other horses and humans, are easy to catch, and are often between six and 23 years of age.

At Healing Reins, their horses are care leased and eventually given back to their loving homes when their work is done. For many equine therapy centers across the U.S., this is a common practice that gives these animals, and the people they heal, a solid purpose.

You’ll Find Equine Therapy Experts in Your Area

Whether you or someone you know could benefit from equine therapy, there are centers across the U.S., including these northwest options.

Healing Reins Therapeutic Riding Center
60575 Billadeau Road in Bend, Oregon

Native Horsemanship Riding Center
396 Taylor Cutoff Road in Sequim, Washington

Free Reign Therapeutic Riding
2205 W Gibbs Road in Spokane, Washington

Horses of Hope
2895 Cloverdale Drive SE. in Turner, Oregon

Hope Equestrian Center
716 Riley Road in Eagle Point, Oregon

B.E.A.T
41919 NW Wilkesboro Road in  Banks, Oregon

Everything Equine at Coastal

Your nearby Coastal Farm & Ranch carries a full line or horse tack, feed, hoof guard, parasite control options, fencing, stock tanks, and bathing kits. We even carry complete line of Forage products from pellets to compressed hay. Stop by today and go home with everything you and your horse need for some quality time together.

Coastal Equine Extra

Horses are amazing creatures. Adding equine therapy to the equation can have some amazing benefits for kids and adults including:

  • Building a sense of self-worth
  • Improved communication skills
  • Building trust
  • Developing socialization skills
  • Decreasing isolation
  • Controlling emotions
  • Taking perspective
  • Setting boundaries
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