For those who participate in horseback riding, the benefits of the sport are immense. Many who ride horses find the activity relaxing, therapeutic, and mentally stimulating.
These mental and emotional benefits of horseback riding are not simply the perception of horse fanatics. Rather, these are true, well-established benefits of the sport, dating back to early civilization.
This guide will explore the therapeutic values of horseback riding and why taking up this sport can help provide long-term mental and emotional benefits.
A History of Therapy
Using horseback riding for therapeutic purposes is far from a new phenomenon. The history of equine therapy dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks around 500 BC. Hippocrates, the Greek physician, dedicated entire portions of his writings to the therapeutic potential of horseback riding for patients. These writings marked the start of an important equine relationship for humans.
By the 19th century, horseback riding was prescribed by German doctors to reduce attacks of hysteria and hypochondria. Over time, this would become the basis for the European ideology of using horseback riding to reduce physical ailments and improve mental wellness.
In the 20th century, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, horseback riding became a solidified therapy tool. By the end of the 1960s, the North American Riding for Handicapped Association was formed, later becoming the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International.
By the 1990s, many rehabs and mental health programs started to implement horse programs as part of their therapy.
Recent research has demonstrated that equine-assisted therapy can help with all of the following mental health issues:
- Trauma-related symptoms
- Dissociative disorders
- And more!
Today, two types of equine therapy have emerged, Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine-Assisted Learning Therapy (EAL). EAP sessions involve a licensed mental healthcare provider and equine professional working together to help clients achieve psychotherapy goals.
EAL sessions focus on developing life skills, such as building trust, self-confidence, and honesty. Both forms of therapy are widely used for reaping the emotional and mental benefits of not only the sport itself but of the interaction with an equine companion.
Lowers Stress Levels
For many who own horses, one of the first therapeutic values they will cite is that being with their horse immediately lowers their stress. Spending time riding horses can lower blood pressure and cause cortisol (our stress hormone) levels to decrease dramatically.
The benefit of horseback riding doesn’t just stop with the actual sport of riding either. Spending time grooming your horse, feeding it, and just hanging can all contribute to your overall well-being.
A Mirror of Emotions
For those who struggle with emotional outbursts or have difficulty pinpointing their emotions, horseback riding can be extremely beneficial.
This is why many rehab facilities use horseback riding with youth and teens. A horse acts as an incredibly accurate mirror of emotions. When you feel upset, your horse will notice. When a teen has an outburst of anger, there is no denying that emotion in light of how a horse will react.
Horses can teach you how to regulate your own emotions better and recognize feelings before they are out of control.
Focus on Another
As humans, we often spend most of our life focused on ourselves. This can lead us into less than healthy mental spaces.
When interacting with a horse, the focus shifts to another. Taking care of a horse, learning how to guide a horse on a trail, and spending time cleaning out a horse’s living quarters all assist in getting you out of your own head.
Taking care of another being has huge mental and emotional benefits. It can leave you feeling fulfilled, happy, and at peace. Not only that, but it can force you to spend more time outside, away from work, and away from your day-to-day stressors, all leading to a better mental state of being.
A Trusted Relationship
When dealing with mental and emotional pain or trauma, it can be tough to trust another human. Humans are often the reason that we were hurt or are still struggling.
Horseback riding allows you to build a trusted relationship with a being that has no malice. Horses are not manipulative or abusive, and they make excellent confidants.
Spending time with a horse can help you rebuild trust in another and can create a long-lasting and rewarding relationship. Many people find that over time, their horse is truly another best friend.
A Boost in Self Esteem
Another reason that horseback riding is often used in therapeutic settings is that it boosts self-esteem. In one study, adolescents who participated in horseback riding and horse care showed increased confidence, self-esteem, assertiveness, emotional regulation, and resourcefulness.
Horseback riding requires constant interaction with your horse. Becoming confident in giving guidance to such a large animal can translate to other areas of your life. Before you know it, you might feel capable of speaking up in a work setting, asserting yourself in a group discussion, and trusting your own skill sets. As your horse shows you trust, you begin to see your own value.
Visit Transwest to Find a Horse Trailer for Your Next Ride
Horseback riding is a highly beneficial activity for both you and your horse. Not only do you get the enjoyment of exploring trails, but you also reap the mental and emotional benefits of the activity. From boosting your levels of happiness to reducing stress, it is easy to see why horseback riding is a therapeutic experience.
At Transwest, we believe in the wonderful magic that takes place when a rider and horse experience the open trails together. That is why we carry a high-quality selection of horse trailers, perfect for taking your equine companion to the next trailhead.
From small tow-behind options to larger trailers with living quarters, we offer everything you need to make your next horseback riding adventure a smooth journey. Come talk to us today about investing in a horse trailer.
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