How Horses Are Empowering Women

06-28-2017 9:14 AM

Today, we want to educate you on a creative type of therapy used in helping domestic violence survivors: equine therapy.

Women who survive domestic violence often end up with low self-esteem, insecurity, difficulty solving problems and high anxiety.

Research now shows that horses can help change all this. The Journal of Creativity in Mental Health published a study in 2009 showing equine-assisted therapy increases self-esteem and lowers anxiety.

Some shelters — including some funded by The Mary Kay Foundation℠ — offer equine therapy to their clients.

What’s so special about horses?

Horses mirror human emotion like no other animal. They can respond immediately to a person’s action or emotion. People and horses just seem to connect. But not just any horse can be a therapy horse. Each horse is chosen and trained. As you might imagine, a mild temperament is high on the list of qualifications!

What is equine therapy?

Equine therapy takes many forms. And horses help with all kinds of issues besides domestic violence. Other issues include sexual abuse, addictions, trauma, autism, neurological disorders, balance, posture and much more.

Here’s a rundown on some of the most popular types of equine therapy and their primary benefits.

  • Therapeutic horseback riding usually involves a certified therapeutic riding instructor helping an individual ride a horse and learn to care for it. Benefits include building self-confidence, improving communication, developing social skills and self-worth.

  • Hippotherapy is a treatment strategy using horses along with a physical therapist, occupational therapist or speech pathologist. The goal is to improve sensory processing disorders, coordination and motor skills.

  • Equine-assisted learning is a learning approach that helps clients develop life skills through equine-assisted activities, which might include grooming. Benefits? Clients build trust, communication and self-awareness.

  • Equine-assisted psychotherapy does not necessarily involve riding, but may include grooming, feeding and ground exercises. Mental health professionals work clients and horses while discussing feelings, behaviors and patterns. Benefits include setting boundaries, showing empathy, building self-confidence, and overcoming challenges.

You can learn more about equine therapy or find a certified program through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International or the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.

To understand how this becomes personal, stay tuned for an upcoming Feature Friday highlighting equine therapy at the Community Alliance Against Family Abuse in Arizona — one of the Foundation’s 2016 grant recipients!

Do you have an experience with equine therapy?

Tell us about it! We love hearing your stories!

Stacy Graves is a contributing editor of The Mary Kay Foundation℠ blog and website. She and her husband, Glen, are raising two teen boys. She’s worked in some type of communication role for Mary Kay Inc. or The Mary Kay Foundation℠ since 1994 — loving every minute. She’s passionate about everything Mary Kay. You can connect with her by her website or LinkedIn.