Equine-Assisted Therapy

Equine-Assisted Therapy will address the following conditions: Victims of sexual abuse, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, attention defict disorders, ptsd, eating disorders, relationship issues and communication problems.

The facility is the only one in Western Cape that is incorporating therapy as well as skills and sporting development whilst using rescued horses.

The haven has introduced the concept to a number of mental, substance abuse and physical and sexual abuse centres in Cape Town. It has been well received and there have been requests to make the therapy available during the week, so that they can bring patients to receive the therapy. Market research has shown that there is a great need for qualified and accredited Equine-Assisted Therapy.

The number of yards offering lessons has decreased in recent years. We offer lessons in all disciplines as well as horse care and management.

The goal is to involve the Mental Health as well as other medical professionals in referring patients and us giving and keeping accurate clinical records. The intention is to eventually have the therapy recognised and covered by the Medical Aid schemes.

Equine-Assisted Therapy

Equine-Assisted Therapy addresses the following issues:

  • Attention deficit disorder

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Relationship Problems

  • Drug and alcohol abuse

  • Eating disorders

  • Behavioural issues

  • Communication problems

  • Physical and sexual abuse

Providing insight for observation and growth. Therapists can use clients’ reactions to horses’ behaviour to understand how clients interact with people and help gain self-awareness.

Offering instant insight – horses offer instant and accurate feedback.

Fostering a healthy relationship – Horses offer a pure non-judgemental relationship for patients. Animals are not concerned with their appearance or how much they weigh.  Horses allow patients to connect to a living being without the risk of criticism or rejection. EAP makes the transition into healthy relationships less threatening.

Building trust – Many patients with eating or other mental disorders have experienced some form of trauma, which makes it difficult for them to trust others and feel safe.

Horses are used in psychotherapy sessions for a multitude of beneficial reasons. Horses have a very similar family structure to humans; they are herd animals in their natural environment. Each herd has a social structure and a role within it. Typically one will find an alpha male and female, who are “responsible” for the remaining herd members including their education and well-being. Whether a horse is the lead horse or a follower, he or she is keenly aware of social status as well as that of those living around them.

In addition to having a role in the herd, each horse has a distinct personality, mood and attitude. One trait that sets horses apart from other therapy animals is that they are prey animals. We humans, along with multiple other species are actually a natural predator to the horse. As a prey animal, a horse will constantly “read”, “observe”, “sense”, “feel”, and then react to its’ current environment, including any changes that take place within it.  As such, when a new potential member whether a human or a horse, enters the herds’ territory, horses “read” them.

With this in mind, horses are able to notice not only our external body language but also our internal emotional energy that we may not even be aware of at the time. Therefore when a horse senses that something is out of sync within us, it may respond to that incongruent emotion or energy and mirror it back to us.

Equine-Assisted Therapy has been approved by the American Speech and Hearing Association as a treatment for individuals with Speech disorders.

Self-report questionnaires reported reductions in psychological distress and less psychological symptoms. They reported being more independent and self-supported, better able to live fully in the present and less troubled with regrets, resentments and guilt.

Researchers have also explored EAP’s effectiveness in 63 children who witnessed violence between their patients and experienced child abuse. After an average of 19 sessions all children showed improved scores on the Children’s Global Assessment of Functioning, which measures psychological, social and school functioning  for six to seventeen year olds.

It is recommended that a recognised programme should have the following:

  • A well-equipped treatment team including mental health and equine specialists.