Drug and Alcohol Addictions
How is Equine Therapy Part of a Drug Rehab Program?
When an individual forms a bond with a horse in an equine therapy program, that animal is a blank slate. It arrives into the relationship with nopre-conceived notions or opinions about the recovering addict. This provides an opportunity for the individual to understand how their behavior affects others For many who have lived with drug addiction for years, this realization is tantamount to a breakthrough. Throughout the course of the drug rehab treatment day, the individual will tend to their horse. A regular schedule will be maintained -and just like counseling sessions or yoga classes the individual will be expected to attend on a regular basis.
Therapist play a role in equine therapy as well, talking to patients about their experiences while caring for the horses -and building a metaphor between these tasks and the rebuilding of one’s life. The hope being that many of the positive things learned by the individual will become tools they can use to get clean and sober (and then stay that way post-rehab).
Common goals: improving verbal and nonverbal communication, decreasing anxiety, handling frustration, building confidence and self esteem, improved focus/attention and becoming more aware of feelings. Also improved balance and postural control.
HOPE employs a natural horsemanship technique, which endorses appealing to a horse’s natural and herd instinct. Natural horsemanship is a method of training and interacting with horses that differs from traditional methods. Rather than using force and teaching a horse “who’s boss,” natural horsemanship keys into the language of the horse. Instead of forcing the horse to do something, the handler helps the horse to understand what is wanted and to be willing to do it. Handlers use the body language and herd behaviors of horses to develop a partnership with the horse. Gentle but firm pressure applied in place of fear, pain and defeat invite the horse into an understanding and trusting relationship.
All sessions begin with grooming. Grooming is important for bonding and building a relationship with the horse. Other ground activities establish the participant as the leader and teach skills that will be used when mounted. The program is not considered a riding program but when ready the participant may ride. All skills learned on the ground can be applied to the mounted work.