As we alluded to in the first post in this series, (Part 1—A different kind of therapy) there are lots of reasons that horses are especially effective therapy partners for military veterans, first responders and other people who have endured trauma.
Because a person’s sense of self is often lost or skewed by a traumatic experience(s), the centerpiece of any successful trauma therapy is to help the person regain perspective and a feeling of self-worth. Here are some of the ways our Heroes & Horses equine partners help program participants with that:
- Self-awareness: If you’ve ever been around a horse, or have even seen one from afar, you know they are not exactly small creatures. Spending time up close and personal with a horse helps the participant develop a more realistic view of themselves through awareness of their size in relation to the horse.
- Confidence: Learning a cool new skill like horsemanship helps the participant feel confident in their ability to take on new challenges and leads to improved self-esteem.
- Self-motivation: Learning to communicate with a large animal promotes a renewed feeling of efficacy. A sense of self-assuredness replaces feelings of helplessness and empowers the person to take on new challenges in other areas of their life.
- Impulse regulation: For program participants whose life experiences have contributed to an erosion of impulse control, interaction with a 1,200 lb. animal goes a long way toward relearning that skill. Research shows that animal-assisted therapy reduces agitation and aggressiveness and increases cooperativeness and behavioral control.
Read the remaining two posts in our “Why horses?” blog series to learn about why a horse is a great companion for repairing relationships and how horses can help participants create a healthy life for themselves going forward.