Meet the Horse, Your New Doctor and Friend

January 19, 2016
By Kyung Jin Kim  Valencia High School  Junior

By Kyung Jin Kim
Valencia High School

For years, psychologists have advocated therapy assisted by animals. Hospitals now offer programs that provide companionship from our furry four-legged friend, the dog. One animal that has yet to make its debut in the narrow white walls of the hospital is the horse. Recently recognized as a means to treatment, equine assisted activities and therapy (EAAT) has served children with Down syndrome to soldiers with PTSD.

The horse is incredibly sensitive to human emotion and accurately reflects the emotional state of the rider. With that knowledge, therapists are able to lead the riders to the proper exercises to build trust between the horse and rider. Once a connection is established, the horse does all (or much) of the work.

A horse’s natural gait simulates that of a human and forces riders to maintain proper posture in the saddle. Constant exposure to a horse’s walk, as well as its trot and canter, builds flexibility, muscle strength, and balance. Additionally, because emotions like anxiety and uncertainty cause the horse to grow nervous as well, the rider learns to relax around the horse. Time with this untraditional somewhat-furry, four-legged friend develops emotional stability and encourages communication skills.

The best part of equine therapy perhaps is that it achieves what is difficult in the therapist’s counseling room: fun. The parents of one child who has experienced equine therapy state that “Enzo has no idea these are therapy classes… [They have led to] so much improvement with his physical strength, balance and coordination.”

Equine therapy is available in Los Angeles County at locations including Carousel Ranch and Shadows Hills Riding Club. Programs cater to people of all ages and a wide range of special needs. Also, people who do not receive lessons themselves can always volunteer. Horses are high-maintenance animals and with the help of the community, equine therapy is a viable path.

“These activities aren’t just about riding,” Mary’s parent says, “equine therapy has given us [parents] more freedom and [our child] feels good about herself.”





One Comment

  1. kelly

    November 27, 2017 at 10:42 AM

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