EQUESTRIAN THERAPY, AN AID FOR INTEGRATION

The passion for horses has united all its members in this common project. In the association, they carry out interventions assisted with horses in order to help people through the benefits that these animals provide at a motor, psychological, educational, and social level. Barbara’s specialization as a psychologist is equestrian therapy.

What prompted you, at Equestrian Clydesdale Horse Association, to offer horse therapy for children? What are the equestrian therapies that you offer in your center? What are the benefits of these therapies for children?

Horse-assisted interventions are those interventions, whether therapeutic, educational or leisure, in which the horse is incorporated as a resource to achieve the objectives proposed for each user or group with whom we work.

The final objective of these interventions is to achieve greater autonomy in patients to improve their quality of life and promote their social integration.

Horses provide multiple benefits that allow us to work simultaneously on aspects of the motor, cognitive, emotional, sensory and social areas. However, it is important to note that the success of the therapy is not based only on the benefits provided by the horse, but on the intervention carried out by the therapist, which will be different for each user and based on therapeutic and / or educational objectives.

For the interventions to be effective and safe, it is essential that they are designed and carried out by a health, educational or social professional, depending on the user who receives the therapy in each case. These professionals are the ones who have the basic knowledge for the treatment of the patients with whom we work and, in addition, they must have specific training in Equestrian Therapies to know how to use the horse as a resource and achieve the success of their intervention.

We carry out the following interventions:

  • Horse therapy: hippotherapy and therapeutic riding.
  • Educative intervention.
  • Leisure with horses.

What part of your work team is essential? Is there an element that should never be missing from an equestrian therapy class and why?

A good individual work plan adjusted to the objectives of each patient is essential in equestrian therapy sessions. The well-being of the horse and safety should never be lacking during classes.

What is behavioral and emotional therapy? What type of patients do you recommend it to? Based on your professional experience, what is the proven effectiveness of these techniques?

Behavior and emotion therapy is aimed at children and adolescents with problems when it comes to relating, behavioral, emotional, self-control problems, attention deficit, hyperactivity, self-esteem …

They are interventions that are based on the experiences we acquire during the sessions through contact with the horse and the exercises that the therapist proposes to achieve the objectives set.

The sessions are based on the affective bond that is established between the child and the horse and the motivation generated in the boys by contact with the animal. People’s problems are dealt with in a metaphorical way and thus emotions, behaviors and behavior patterns that generate positive relationships are elaborated. This will facilitate the development of appropriate social skills, attitudes of collaboration and solidarity.

The ability to handle the horse and make it obey is a very important experience for the self-affirmation and self-esteem of any person. For this reason, a feeling of power develops and with this the will to overcome resistance and obstacles in life and to overcome oneself grows.

How do you evaluate the patient and decide the treatment to follow? How can you request an evaluation from your experts? What is the process to apply for enrollment in horse riding classes for children? What schedules do you currently have to attend these courses?

We carry out an evaluation of the patient through a test session with the horse and an interview with the user himself and the family. Afterwards, a collection of data obtained in the test session and in the user’s medical and / or educational reports is made. With all the information, an individual work plan is prepared tailored to the specific needs of each user (objectives to be worked on, type of therapy, professional who will attend to him, horse that we are going to use, etc.).

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND EQUINOTHERAPY

Can we improve our emotional intelligence thanks to equine therapy?

We have always heard that an intelligent person is one who gets good grades in school, institute, university … and is successful in life, something directly linked to the IQ. But we were forgetting a very important part of the intelligence that comes into play throughout our lives, emotional intelligence.

Fortunately, the importance of emotions in our day-to-day lives, in our relationships with other people and in our well-being is increasingly being taken into account, and we see how emotional education is beginning to gain importance in various contexts (homes, schools, activities…).

But what is emotional intelligence? Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive one’s own feelings, those of others, distinguish between them and use that information to guide one’s thinking and behavior.

Therefore, we could say that someone emotionally intelligent would be someone who has the following skills:

  1. Ability to accurately perceive emotions (what am I feeling? What are others feeling?).
  2. Ability to understand emotions, especially their language (why am I feeling what I feel? Why does the other person feel that way?).
  3. Ability to regulate one’s own emotions and those of others (“control” your emotions and be able to modify those of others).

An emotionally intelligent person is able to successfully manage emotions in a conscious way to relate more positively with others and feel better about himself, which has a direct impact on various areas of our life (health, relationships, school, work, etc. ). How important, right?

But, how can we work on emotional intelligence through equine therapy?

Here are some examples of how we work on some goals to improve emotional intelligence with the help of our horses:

·       SELF ESTEEM

Having good self-esteem is key to ensuring the good of oneself, to love ourselves as we are, in addition to being in charge of maintaining emotional stability.

Self-esteem is in charge of evaluating our well-being and in turn has an impact on areas of social, emotional, intellectual, behavioral and school development.

Dealing with our horses involves unconditional love, they love us just the way we are, they don’t care about our weight, our way of speaking, the size of our nose or our hair color. They will be our friends if we treat them well and in return we will receive the purest love that exists.

Thanks to this bond, we are able to improve the self-esteem of people who need it, feeling they are part of something important, feeling loved and accepted, both by the animals and by the therapists and volunteers.

The constant work with the horses, learning to understand their language and, with respect, getting to control them through therapeutic riding, makes them feel capable, and this brings benefits on an emotional level that directly translate into greater self-esteem in the majority of the cases.

·       EMPATHY

We understand empathy as the ability to put ourselves in the place of the other person to understand them, not necessarily sharing their opinion or point of view. An empathic person is able to perceive the emotions of others and also understand them, even if it is not she who feels them.

Some of the advantages that working with empathy gives us is that it encourages prosocial behaviors, very necessary in progress from childhood, allowing the development of an adequate personality to maintain an optimal quality of life, avoiding, for example, behaviors or communication styles aggressive or introversion, among other things.

In our sessions, always through the intervention of the therapists, we work on empathy from different angles since equine therapy allows us not only to learn to empathize with other people (therapists, volunteers, other users …) but also with horses. We learn to read their emotions and understand how they can feel when faced with the different stimuli and events that occur in the therapies, and how we can act so that they are calm and feel good with us.

Empathizing with beings, a priori, so different from us, helps us to generalize this capacity to the people around us.

·       RECOGNITION OF EMOTIONS

Being able to recognize different emotions (drawings, photographs, facial expressions …) and knowing how to classify them is a very important preliminary step to understanding them and being able to manage them correctly. Thanks to the extra motivation that the company of our horses gives us, this job becomes a game.

We must not forget that the tranquility and comfort that working in this way provides users (through games, in a very relaxed context, outdoors, with the horses, in many cases their best friends) drastically decontextualizes the therapy and the feeling of work and effort that could be felt in other conditions, so that the objectives are easier to meet and they feel more comfortable and less judged, which greatly facilitates emotional expression.

After this brief introduction on what emotional intelligence is and its relationship with equine therapy, we believe that the question we posed at the beginning can be answered: yes, we can improve our emotional intelligence thanks to equine therapy. Working with animals opens up a huge range of possibilities for professionals to explore the world of emotions and immerse ourselves in it in a fun and healthy way.