If you’ve taken a walk through a park recently, you’ve probably seen people out enjoying nature with a furry friend. Animal companions have been by humans’ side for millennia. Today, scientists are coming to understand the neurological connection between spending time with animals and increased mental and physical health.
Equine therapy, working with horses in a healing context, can be an especially powerful form of animal connection. Many equine programs focus on trauma recovery and may be an effective part of larger protocols geared toward recovery from addiction. If you’re questioning whether equine therapy could work for you or your loved one, contact the friendly staff at Painted Dessert today. Our New Harmony, Utah equine therapy program is fully accredited, and we’d love to explore how it can support your healing journey. Call us at 844.540.0357 or fill out our confidential form online to start the conversation.
Does Equine Therapy Actually Work?
Many people wonder whether working with horses can actually help with trauma and addiction recovery. The answer that comes back from the scientific community, as well as ample experiential accounts, is that yes, it can. Levels of the hormone cortisol are known to drop significantly with exposure to horses. This is the hormone most associated with stress, and sadly, trauma survivors often have elevated levels. On a biological level, it’s thus beneficial to interact with these animals if you’re working to find more peace and tranquility in your life.
Behaviorally, it also makes sense that equine therapy is effective. Horses are prey animals, and in the wild, they have to band together to face off against predators like wolves or coyotes. This means that they’re naturally vigilant and aware of their surroundings as well as completely present in their own bodies. Horses can, therefore, be great models for coming back to the present. Moreover, since they are herd animals, horses have an innate ability to work cooperatively. This also makes them great models of community and able to demonstrate trust within a supportive peer group.
Finally, horses reward people who are authentic with their feelings. They don’t judge based on income, clothing, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any of the other factors that humans are unfortunately prone to use to exclude one another. Rather, horses simply pay attention to whether or not the humans working with them make them feel safe. In this way, they can provide powerful biofeedback for people working to grow their capacity for authentic expression and connection.
Equine Therapy for Recovery
Those combatting addiction almost always have a trauma background. At Painted Desert, our trauma-informed therapy approach acknowledges this reality. We strive to get to the root cause of what caused our clients to turn to drugs or alcohol in the first place. Addiction is a disease, and we’re here to help you heal, not to blame you for factors outside your control.
Horse therapy is especially effective in the context of working with trauma-based substance abuse for a variety of reasons:
It Increases Physical Wellbeing
In combination with a nutrition program like the one offered at Painted Desert, equine therapy can help clients heal from physical damage caused by substance abuse. Simply being outdoors and getting exercise can do wonders for resetting the body’s internal metrics and cueing it to begin the self-healing process.
It Cultivates Mindfulness
Those suffering from addiction based on trauma often feel stuck in the past. The symptoms of trauma often include having flashbacks or nightmares, and these can make it tough to stay in the present moment or invest in a positive future. Horse therapy helps clients develop mindfulness, the ability to keep their consciousness in the present, by gently requiring their full attention.
It Generates Empathy and Resilience
Trauma survivors who have turned to substance abuse as a way to cope may feel withdrawn and unable to connect. Horses offer the unique opportunity to bond on a deep interpersonal level without relying on language. Time and again, clients find that it’s very natural and even easy to feel compassion for their horse companions. This, in turn, can help them feel compassion for themselves and to reconnect with other humans.
Take the First Steps Toward Recovery with Equine Therapy at Painted Desert in New Harmony, UT
If you’re interested in equine therapy as part of the journey to recovery from trauma and substance use, reach out to Painted Desert today. Our women-specific facility in the beautiful Utah wilderness is a great place to work toward healing. Learn more about our equine therapy program and other offerings by calling 844.540.0357 or contacting us online.