Equine Therapy and PTSD
PTSD has reached epidemic proportions in returning veterans. Repercussions of wartime experiences bring staggering rates of divorce, abuse, hopelessness, homelessness and suicide.
Experts report effects of PTSD are complex and deeply rooted. It affects nearly every facet of the mind, including cognitive and physical responses like reflexes, being easily startled, nightmares, irritability or rage. Having been exposed to consistent trauma such as war or combat, the brain rewires itself and locks out fear, guilt, reasoning and emotional reaction to the experience while in battle. This is the body’s survival instinct at work.
Domestic animals, like cats and dogs, are known for easing anxiety and depression and providing comfort to people. Horses have personalities similar to dogs, except they’re much larger. They’re recently becoming touted for their ability to ease post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as fear, anxiety, confusion, and depression. In many cases, therapeutic horseback riding, also known as equine therapy, can help significantly decrease PTSD symptoms like insomnia, flashbacks or panic attacks.
Equine therapy uses horses to help promote emotional healing and growth of those with disabilities. Behaviors of horses and those with PTSD are similar. They meet on common ground. They’re both oversensitive, easily startled and hypervigilant to danger. Another person, especially in a medical setting, may not be able to provide such a relationship.
Horses, similar to PTSD sufferers, are hypervigilant and fearsome until they perceive they’re not in danger. One must gain their trust. Because of their own issues, a PTSD subject can easily relate to a horse.
Horses sense human emotions and start to emulate them. The horse acts as a mirror to their emotional status. Because of this, the person must work on their own problems to make progress with the horse.
Working with horses stimulates spiritual, physical, psychological and occupational healing. Building a trusting, non-threatening relationship with the animal can further positive feelings of love, respect, empathy, patience, and safety in the human
The debilitating feeling hits a PTSD sufferer, and managing the condition means avoiding triggers or sleeping it off. Many find within a few minutes of riding symptoms ease, proving equestrian therapy offers huge benefits.
Equine therapy allows you to communicate with a partner who has no agenda. Horses are well-suited because of their instincts and the way they communicate. You get real-time feedback from the animal. Horses don’t question motives. They react to actions. You must change your actions in order to change results with your therapy partner.
There’s no fear of being exposed or judged by a horse. This accelerates progress. Many enjoy sessions and look forward to them. Retention rates are reported to be much higher than some other therapies, and the average number of sessions needed is fewer. Around the world, equestrian therapy has a solid track record of enabling results.
Many conditions such as addiction, substance abuse, mood, and behavioral disorders, eating disorders, learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, autism, Asperger’s, grief or loss, trauma, sex addiction, compulsive gambling, bipolar and depression have benefited from equestrian therapy.
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