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Equine Therapy

Equine Therapy

Equine therapy (also known as equine assisted therapy (EAT) or horse therapy) is an experiential mental health treatment method that uses the connection between people and horses to enhance physical or emotional healing.

At Horses healing Hearts, we may use different forms of equine therapy depending on client needs.

What are the different types of equine therapy?

There are several different forms of horse therapy and related mental health treatment. These include:

Equine-assisted Psychotherapy

Equine-assisted psychotherapy focuses on individuals managing mental or substance use disorders, cognitive issues, and other disorders. While still a form of “talk” therapy, EAP allows clients to use multiple senses to process their underlying emotional issues and mental health challenges.

Patients partner and bond with horses to achieve equine-assisted growth, a form of personal advancement that comes in conjunction to the relationship with the horse.

Equine assisted therapy differs from therapeutic riding in that it can involve working with horses in a non-riding capacity. Participants may engage in activities such as grooming, feeding, and leading the horse. Equine assisted therapies can help individuals develop a sense of responsibility and empathy towards others, which can be beneficial for those struggling with addiction and mental health.

The outdoor environment and use of animals lend a unique, positive dimension to the experience that is different than traditional therapy. During each session, clients may ride or work with horses while a mental health professional helps the individual process certain emotions and memories.

Participants usually learn all aspects of horse care, including grooming, saddling and riding. Riding horses is an effective an major component of equine therapy programs, but the act of caring for a horse can have its own therapeutic benefits, as participants learn to exercise care over another being.

In doing so, they may overcome their own psychological challenges, which often involve caring for themselves. Equine assisted therapy shows participants that they are capable of looking after another living thing, and thus prepares them to look after themselves via equine assisted learning. For people with eating disorders, substance use disorders, and other psychiatric ailments that threaten their physical wellbeing, equine assisted therapies can be a major step forward.


Hippotherapy is a form of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, co-facilitated by a licensed physical, occupational or speech therapist, as well as a certified equine specialist. The name hippotherapy draws on the Latin roots for the words “horse” and “healing.” Hippotherapy may be employed by an occupational therapist helping a client return from a work-related injury, or a speech and language therapist working with a client who is struggling to deal with a speech impediment.

Hippotherapy is designed to help patients with neuromuscular disorders improve balance, coordination and body control. For children with cerebral palsy, hippotherapy with a certified equine therapist has been shown to be beneficial for helping them improve their self-awareness and feeling of unity with their body.

Hippotherapy is best understood as a form of physical therapy, in contrast to equine assisted psychotherapy, which focuses on mental health. It is often used for people with traumatic brain injuries, who may need to re-learn their capabilities through physical therapy sessions with a licensed physical therapist.

Therapeutic Riding

Therapeutic riding is considered an Equine-Assisted Activity, rather than Equine Therapy, therapeutic riding is less formal than equine-assisted psychotherapy or hippotherapy and has proven effective in helping children heal from trauma, as well as improve confidence and self-esteem.

Therapeutic riding involves riding horses under the supervision of a certified therapeutic riding instructor. The therapy focuses on understanding and cooperating with the horse, and is effective for building self esteem and self efficacy in participants.

The therapist may use various techniques, such as relaxation exercises or guided imagery, to help the participant manage their emotions and develop coping skills. Therapeutic riding can help individuals with substance use disorders improve their physical fitness and develop a sense of self-confidence and independence.

Therapeutic horseback riding is incorporated at summer camps for victims of abuse and human trafficking, and horse riding is often used as a way of teaching life skills and treating children who have been exposed to these painful experiences.

We invite you to learn more about the different types of equine therapy that we offer at Horses Healing Hearts of Salisbury by scheduling a free Meet & Greet with our team. Horses Healing Hearts home base is located at Lazy J Ranch. 

Who can benefit from equine therapy?

Equine therapy is a non-judgmental practice that is intended for clients of all ages, backgrounds, and needs, to assist in improving their physical and mental health. Since horses form deep bonds that are not based on the expectations or stigma involved in human relationships, clients can find a sense of acceptance and camaraderie (unconditional positive attitudes) when working with animals that may be missing from their daily interactions.

The goal of equine assisted learning, equine assisted therapy, and equine assisted activities is always to improve the participant’s emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being through interactions with horses. In recent years, equine therapy has gained popularity as a form of treatment for substance abuse and addiction.

Equine Assisted Therapy for Substance Abuse.

The use of equine assisted psychotherapy for substance abuse treatment is not new. In fact, equine therapy has been used for centuries as a form of treatment for various physical and mental health conditions. The unique relationship between humans and horses and the associated health benefits have been observed and utilized by healers and therapists throughout history. Today, equine therapy is gaining recognition as a powerful tool for substance abuse treatment.

Equine therapy is a form of animal-assisted therapy, which has been found to be effective in treating various mental health conditions. Horses are used in equine therapy because of their sensitivity to human emotions and their ability to mirror human behavior.

Horses are highly attuned to the emotions of those around them and can pick up on subtle changes in mood, behavior, and mental health, which is one way in which equine therapy supports growth in participant’s self awareness and emotional regulation. Equine assisted therapy sessions and equestrian therapy sessions depend on the emotional connection between participants and their horses.

How Equine Therapy Ties In With Addiction Treatment

Equine therapy can be a highly effective form of treatment for substance use disorders and addiction. Studies have shown that equine therapy can improve participants’ self-esteem, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve their overall quality of life. Equine therapy can also help participants develop better communication skills and improve their ability to form healthy relationships.

Equine assisted therapy is often used in conjunction with complementary medicine in the form of addiction treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment. Equine therapy can be particularly helpful for individuals who have struggled with traditional forms of treatment or who are resistant to other mental health treatment. Equine therapy provides a non-judgmental environment in which participants can explore their emotions and develop new coping skills in the company of a mental health professional.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy for Adolescents

Equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) can also be an effective form of treatment for adolescents and young adults struggling with substance use disorder. Adolescents may be resistant to traditional forms of therapy and may be more likely to engage in equine facilitated therapy because it is a fun and engaging activity.

Equine therapy can also help adolescents develop important life skills, such as responsibility, communication, and empathy. Equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) can help patients learn to treat their therapy horse the way they want to be treated, and extend that understanding to others in the therapeutic process.

Equine Assisted Therapy for Clients with Trauma-Related Mental Health Conditions

Equine therapy can also be helpful for individuals who have experienced trauma or who suffer from PTSD. Horses are particularly sensitive to the emotions of those around them, and they can provide a sense of comfort and safety to individuals engaging in equestrian therapy who have experienced trauma.

Equine therapy with a trained equine therapist can help individuals with PTSD develop a sense of control over their emotions and improve their ability to manage anxiety and stress. The emotional connection involved in horseback riding and equine assisted therapy can help participants overcome their focus on their own feelings and connect with another living thing, and equine assisted therapy work has shown that it can improve the quality of life for these patients and others.

Patients who have undergone medical treatment and physical therapy for medical ailments may feel like they have exhausted their options. It may seem difficult to suggest that “horse acts” could be a solution, but the evidence shows that equine assisted therapy programs can be an effective complement to rehabilitation nursing and that horseback riding therapy can break patients out of plateaus in their growth and self awareness.

Therapeutic Riding for Others

Equine assisted therapy is not just beneficial for individuals struggling with addiction or mental health issues. It can also be helpful for individuals who simply want to improve their overall well-being.

Connection With Nature

Equine therapy and therapeutic riding can help individuals develop a sense of connection with nature and develop a greater appreciation for the environment. It can also be a fun and rewarding way to stay active and improve physical fitness.

One of the key benefits of equine assisted therapy is that the therapy focuses on providing a unique and non-judgmental environment for individuals to explore their emotions and develop new coping skills. Horses are non-judgmental animals who do not hold grudges or make assumptions about individuals based on their past in the therapeutic process.

Shame And Guilt

This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who have experienced shame or guilt related to their past actions. Equine play therapy can help individuals learn to forgive themselves and move forward with their recovery.

A therapeutic horseback riding experience can help a client break through a plateau they have encountered with their treatment team and provide new therapeutic value in a situation where other interventions have failed.

The Importance of Professionals

Equine assisted therapy is a relatively low-risk form of treatment, with few reported adverse effects. However, it is important for individuals to work with trained horse therapy experts and horse handlers to ensure their safety during equine assisted therapy sessions (as well as any other mental health treatment).

It is also important for individuals to disclose any allergies or medical conditions that may affect their participation in equine assisted therapy. An allergy to horses or environmental elements can be a serious impediment to horse therapy.

PATH International

PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) is an international group that teaches communication skills, talk therapy, and other elements of equine facilitated psychotherapy to people who wish to engage in this evolving school of practical medicine.

Practitioners who work with the therapeutic team at PATH International are accredited to provide equine psychotherapy services, as well as occupational therapy and other related therapies, when operating in conjunction with a licensed therapist in their domain.

American Hippotherapy Association

Hippotherapy also requires an equipped treatment team that is trained in the safety elements of therapeutic riding as well as the associated elements of equine assisted learning for patients with cerebral palsy, eating disorders, and other conditions requiring mental health services. The American Hippotherapy Association is a professional association that provides accreditation to practitioners in this field.

How do I know if equine therapy is right for me?

Even if they have never worked with horses before, equine therapy is often a good fit for clients in recovery, speech therapy, or occupational therapy who are seeking an outlet for their focus and motivation. Many of the basic skills needed to care for horses in equine assisted learning are best learned through repetition, providing a helpful structure and sense of responsibility for individuals in recovery.

Equine therapy, therapeutic riding, and equine assisted therapy are all effective forms of treatment for substance use disorder and addiction. These forms of therapy can improve participants’ emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being, while also helping them develop important life skills through equine assisted growth.

Equine assisted therapy is a unique and non-judgmental form of treatment that can be particularly helpful for individuals who have struggled with traditional forms of therapy.

Equine assisted therapy provides a safe and supportive environment in which individuals can explore their emotions and develop new coping skills. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder or addiction, consider exploring the benefits of equine assisted therapy.

What should I expect from equine therapy?

Equine therapy sessions differ depending on the needs, background, and experience level of the participants. All sessions will incorporate elements of behavioral therapy alongside the care and handling of horses.

All equine assisted therapy programs will have different areas of emphasis, but you can find one suited to you by seeking a referral from an agency that is centered on your particular needs.

Horses Healing Hearts can help patients with substance use disorder and eating disorders as well as dual-diagnosis disorders connect with equine therapy programs from licensed practitioners that are equipped to address their unique needs.

Who We Support & Help

Youth at Risk * Women & Men in Transition * Veterans * First Responders 
People with Disabilities * Individuals & Group in Addiction Recovery* Trauma Survivors


These life-changing programs are designed to help empower women  in their life journeys, helping them to move forward with confidence and reclaim their power by building critical life skills that are paralleled back to their own worlds in a safe and unique environment!


Men are always being told to do better and more. Let’s put an end to that stigma as we help men discover the tools and skills for them to become their best selves!

Our men's program is designed with specific objectives to give them the tools and skills to become their best self, it will help them regain control of their relationships, career, health and so much more while working on themselves from within. Through this course, we help men gain new experiences while building their confidence at the same time!


These programs help our youth at risk to build an armor of skills so they know how to protect themselves and move forward with all that life throws at them and have self-awareness about their own behavior through the powerful teacher, the horse!


These highly effective programs support veterans to move forward in their lives by giving them the skills to help them gain resiliency and also to help make the transition easier from military life to civilian life.

First Responders

These highly effective programs help first responders suffering from PTSD by giving them the skills to cope with the fears and anxiety e brought o by the stressful situations they are faced with on a daily basis. 


Our programs gives participants tools and strategies to work together effectively, make better decisions and resolve issues. Helping them to move through the blockages improving communication, knowledge, loyalty, productivity and unity.

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