Horses as Healers

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Has your child had emotional problems or perhaps been diagnosed with cancer?  We often think about how good dogs are for people and of all the good things they do for humans; but did you know that horses do a great job at healing humans too?

Although you may have never thought of how much horses could help someone deal with a health or emotional problem, there are several programs throughout the world that do precisely this.

There is even an organization devoted to this called the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. Founded in 1999, this organization offers both Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning.

There are currently over 600 EAGALA programs throughout 50 countries. These programs employ professionals who have been trained by EAGALA to help people facing various struggles like addiction, abuse and depression.

They also work with families to strengthen their relationships. There are currently 50,000 members.

What is EAP and EAL?

This type of therapy incorporates the use of a therapist and an equine specialist who works with the client and the horses to determine what an individual’s treatment goals are and to find a way to fulfill such goals.

EAP is an experimental therapy where an individual gets therapy through the use of a horse. By interacting with a horse there are endless opportunities for self-evaluation and for group interaction.

An example of this is a little girl who was abused and was taken to interact with a horse. The horse, contrary to his normal behavior, started nipping at the girl and she allowed him to continue to do it.

When asked why she let the horse do this she stated that it let her know the horse liked her. Her parents were abusing her and hitting her and she took this as a sign of them loving her. How else was she to interpret her own parents hitting her?


Through further work with the horse she learned how this behavior was unacceptable. Finally she learned how to stand up for herself.

With this type of therapy, an individual interacts with a horse (this doesn’t necessarily mean riding one) and then discusses their behavior, feelings and responses.

Other studies have shown that riding programs as well as grooming programs can help people with various situations. One was with Alzheimer’s disease and one with people with cancer.

The one with Alzheimer’s was a small pilot study done by Ohio State University; they found that people with Alzheimer’s were perfectly capable of grooming, walking and feeding horses and that doing so resulted in a decreased number of episodes of negative behavior by them.

In addition, it lifted their mood almost immediately and those who were normally withdrawn became more active in the presence of the horses.

They also measured the stress hormones of the people involved in the study and compared them to those who didn’t interact with the horses, and found that those interacting with the horses had a decrease in stress hormone.

Probably one of the most unexpected findings was that those individuals interacting with the horses had an increase in the amount of physical activity.

Although those involved in the study all had physical limitations they were seen pushing themselves with the horses; something that was not seen in any other situation they engaged in.

The study on treating cancer patients with horses was done by the Equest Center for Therapeutic Training, Inc. They took kids with cancer and taught them about the different aspects of horses.

They taught them how to groom them, feed them, and to ride them. What it taught these kids was live for the moment.


It also taught them to trust again, and it put them in touch with other kids who were experiencing cancer. The goals of the program are fourfold: psychological, social, physical and spiritual.

Working with horses has shown to help students gain insight as it relates to relationships, communication, emotions, inner strength and personal healing.

Often groups that participate also get involved in group discussions, related artwork, and activities during weekend sessions. Not only do they attempt to help the kid bond with the horses and others but they also teach them a sense of responsibility as well as feeling needed.

If you have tried all sorts of other therapies for your child and have seen no progress you may want to consider trying horse therapy. If nothing else has worked, this may be the key to a better life for them.

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