THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS OF HORSES
Many people around the world, with or without special needs, benefit from equine-assisted activities and therapies. At the center of these therapeutic activities, which have many sub-headings such as hippotherapy, horse-assisted psychotherapy, horse-assisted learning, lies communicating with the horse, sharing the same environment with it, and taking advantage of its multidimensional movements. Equine-supported activities and therapies have been proven by scientific studies to increase people's physical and mental health, strengthen their ability to lead, self-confidence, self-awareness, empathy, and communication, improve their socialization and ability to cope with problems.
So, what are the characteristics that make horses so valuable and important from a therapeutic point of view?
Horses have a rhythmic and repetitive form of walking. This form of gait provides multidimensional pelvic mobility to the consultant on the horse. This mobility is similar to pelvic mobility in the human gait. So, the horse's back works like a walking simulator for the consultant. This condition has positive effects on the client's musculoskeletal-nervous system, posture control, and balance.
Horses are animals that live in herds in nature and are in a hunting position. For this reason, they are extremely sensitive to environmental stimuli and have a strong ability in nonverbal communication. By their nature and instincts, they analyze our body language, facial expressions, and other nonverbal communication cues well, and give honest and open responses to them. These characteristics of horses give the consultant valuable feedback that he or she can use in his or her own life, increasing their self-awareness, ability to communicate and empathize.
Horses are social animals with specific roles within the herds in which they live. Each horse's temperament, attitude, mood, ability to learn and communicate are unique. Some can be calmer, some excited, some stubborn. In these aspects, they are very similar to humans. Getting to know and communicate with each horse creates different internal influences and experiences in each horse.
Horses are big and powerful creatures. For the consultant, learning to communicate with a horse and maintaining communication allows him to understand how he can deal with other big and challenging situations in his life.
In addition, horse-assisted activities or therapies are usually performed in places intertwined with nature, away from the noise and stress of the city. Smell, image, sound, etc. in these places each of the stimuli creates a neurological input in the client's nervous system. A calm and peaceful area makes the client feel safe. In addition, the consultant's participation in the care and daily routine of horses improves self-confidence and responsibility-taking behavior.
Author: Merve Bitkin - Hippotherapy Turkey Project Assistant / Horse Trainer
Volunteer Translator: Ömer Tanrıkulu