For children struggling with a variety of mental health issues, from trauma to depression to addiction, research has shown that equine programs can provide substantial benefits. From horseback riding to caring for horses through equine-assisted therapy, interacting with horses can help improve overall mental health and relationships with others.
How working with horses can help girls improve other relationships in their lives
While interactions with horses have been found to help a myriad of people, they are particularly effective in helping children with special challenges such as emotional and behavioral issues. Many children with these issues have trouble trusting the adults in their lives, and those with a history of abuse can often appear aggressive or hostile toward others. For these children, a combination of cognitive therapy and working with horses has demonstrated positive results.
Working with horses can teach children about behavior regulation and leadership. As horses are prey animals, they will look for a leader to help them feel safe. Horses thrive on nonverbal communication and if they feel threatened or unsafe, they will retreat from the perceived threat. Because horses can recognize emotion, children will be able to see the immediate effect of responding positively to the horse. In this way, a horse acts as a mirror to your child’s behavior which can serve as a teachable moment for how their behavior affects others.
Another skill working with horses can teach children is intentional attention towards others and away from self. When children have to groom, feed, and take care of horses, they aren’t thinking about themselves. This shift in attention away from themselves allows them to be able to more deeply care about and for other people in an environment that is removed from the pressures of daily life.
Working with horses can also help children develop emotionally in a variety of different ways from helping them feel more secure in themselves to overcoming adverse effects of trauma. Children can gain confidence in themselves as they learn to ride a horse and be assertive in their directions and decisions. They can gain trust by learning to cooperate with and develop a bond with their animal, which can lead to trust in other relationships. This bond can also help struggling children develop empathy and affection in a low-risk environment.
If your daughter is struggling behaviorally, emotionally, or socially, she could benefit from a program with a strong equine component.
Solstice East can help
Solstice East is a groundbreaking residential treatment center for girls ages 14-18 that specializes in treating teens who are highly intelligent and sensitive but vulnerable to the pressures of their surroundings. Our campus offers on-site equine therapy, an accredited academic schedule, plus world-class therapeutic programming to treat a wide range of trauma and disorders.
In equine therapy, our students learn about communication and relationships, providing a powerful mirror for students to reflect on their moods as well as verbal and nonverbal communication. For more information about how Solstice East can help, please call 828-484-9946.