"First and foremost, horses can help individuals identify their feelings."
Arnevik, E. A., PhD, Brenna, I. H., M.A., Kern-Godal, A., M.A., Kogstad, N., M.D., & Ravndal, E. (2016). Contribution of the patienthorse relationship to substance use disorder treatment: Patients’ experiences. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 1-12. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
Evidence Grows for equine therapy as treatment engagement tool. (2015). Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly, 27(41), 1-6. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
Although equine therapy is often considered "experimental," there is growing evidence of its effectiveness in helping with substance abuse treatment. In Addiction Science and Clinical Practice, they "published a study from a hospital-based substance use treatment program in Norway, which found that substantially more patients who participated in an optional equine-assisted therapy program as part of their treatment overall remained for the full duration of their treatment program, when compared with individuals who chose not to participate in equine therapy" (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Weekly 2015). They continue to explain that, "therapy using other animals (such as dogs) could achieve similar results, [they are] partial to horses in part because their personality matches that of humans to a great degree. Therefore, the bond that is developed with a horse can be translated to how relationships grow - or crumble - in interactions with humans" (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Weekly 2015). In order to get a horse to react effectively, the rider needs to be positive and serene, as horses are very sensitive to their rider's emotional state. This translates into an understanding for the client of what is required of them to create this mental state outside of horseback riding in their everyday life.
There is much research on the importance of the therapeutic relationship in the success of treatment. Equine therapy, "presents unique opportunities to work within a three-way client-horse-therapist therapeutic relationship. [It is believed] that interaction with horses brings other dimensions to the therapy. [Suggested] benefits are believed to be a result of the inherent characteristics of the horse, such as learning from its herd-based, cooperative behavior to experience new forms of behavior and feelings. The horse is also claimed to be useful as a metaphor; non-judgmental and motivational; useful for building self-esteem, confidence, and mastery; and effective for building trust and attachment with both the horse and therapist." (Godal, Brenna, Kogstad, Arnevik & Ravndal 2016). Characteristics such as confidence, mastery, non-judgement, self-esteem and trust are all essential to build the resilience of an individual. As resilience and coping skills are part of Hower Lodge's main goal with residents, we hope that our horses will help individuals to begin to build their resilience so that they can bring their success here at The Lodge with them into the real world once they leave. Equine therapy is never mandatory, and of course feel free to reach out to us with any questions on the subject. We are always happy to help in any way we can.