Anyone who spends a lot of time with horses knows the healing powers of a horse. So the statement should be “If I were a horse I would be a Therapy Horse”. Both of my horses have provided therapy to each other, to humans and perhaps my other pets too.
Bailey is my first horse ever to own, and she truly is a remarkable horse. Bailey and I had a difficult beginning with her having major lameness issues within 10 days of purchase that was not disclosed. Needless to say it was a stressful time for me and it lasted 5 years until Dr. Romero used Ethyl Alcohol to fuse her pastern joint. The funny thing is, being with Bailey reduced my stress, even though my stress was the result of the situation. That really doesn’t make sense, but being in the presence of Bailey was calming for me. She seemed to indicate to me everything would be ok. I melt when I look into her eyes.
Cheyenne was purchased 2 years ago and never did I think she would be a therapy horse! In fact, most people who knew her in the past called her a “nutcase”! Yet within the first minutes of her arrival to my barn on June 28, 2014, she became the best physical therapy for Bailey. Bailey needed to move after her pastern joint was fused because scar tissue had formed and she needed to break that up. Now she had Cheyenne to boss around and play with. I never expected Cheyenne to be a physical therapist to Bailey.
Cheyenne also gets ridden weekly by a college student. I can’t think of a better way to beat college stress than on the back of a horse.
Both Bailey and Cheyenne are lucky enough to have many different people visit them on a regular basis. Some are very young children that see my horses in their backyard everyday and it brings a smile to them that a familiar friend is always there. The children love to visit the barn and interact with the horses. Some are people going through a difficult time in their life and ask to visit and just brush my horses for their therapy. My husband I host people from all over the world at our house and they all comment on how much they love our “therapy dog” Riley and our horses.
I have to list couple therapy that my horses provide too. There is something magical about sitting on a horse and holding the hand of the love of your life.
Probably the most special therapy my horses provide is to a neighbor, a proud veteran that finds peace when he is hugging or petting my horses. My neighbor brings over her father who served in the Navy for over 18 years and fought in the Korean War. He suffers from PTSD and other age related issues. He lights up when he is with the horses and he will tell me repeatedly how much he loves them. I think he would sleep in the barn if allowed.
Equine-assisted therapy (EAT) encompasses a range of treatments that includes activities with horses and other equines to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth in persons with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, autism, cerebral palsy, dementia, depression, developmental delay, genetic syndromes (such as Down’s syndrome), traumatic brain injuries, behavioral issues, abuse issues, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug and alcohol addiction, and other mental health problems. Such therapy is not designed to replace more commonly used therapies.
Horses have been utilized as a therapeutic aid since the ancient Greeks used them for those people who had incurable illnesses. Its earliest recorded mention is in the writings of Hippocrates who discussed the therapeutic value of riding. The claimed benefits of therapeutic riding have been dated back to 17th century literature where it is documented that it was prescribed for gout, neurological disorder and low morale. In 1946 Equine Therapy was introduced in Scandinavia after an outbreak of poliomyelitis.
Therapeutic riding as a therapy started with Liz Hartel from Denmark. Her legs were paralyzed from polio but with therapy she was able to win the silver medal for dressage in the 1952 Olympic Games. At about that time, in Germany, therapeutic riding was used to address orthopedic dysfunctions such as scoliosis. The first riding centers in North America began in the 1960s and the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association(NARHA) was launched in 1969. Therapeutic riding was introduced to the United States and Canada in 1960 with the formation of the Community Association of Riding of the Disabled (CARD). In the United States riding for the disabled developed as a form of recreation and as a means of motivation for education, as well as its therapeutic benefits. In 1969 the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center for the Handicapped was established in Michigan, and remains the oldest center specifically for people with disabilities in the United States.
The North American Riding for Handicapped Association (NARHA) was founded in 1969 to serve as an advisory body to the various riding for disabled groups across the United States and its neighboring countries. In 2011, NARHA changed its name to the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International.
The more time you spend with a horse, the more you realize how truly special an animal they are. Every person that rides my horses has a smile from start to finish.
That’s the type of therapy I’ll take any day.