There is growing evidence that human interaction with horses can improve physical ability, emotional wellness, and cognitive behavior. The most noted benefits include:
STRC instructors utilize a combination of research, personal observation, and input from parents, schools, counselors, and physicians to develop a unique experience for each individual. The majority of our participants are in our program to improve physical ability, communication skills, or learn tools to manage their mental wellness.
Physicians have found therapeutic riding extremely effective for adult stroke patients, adults or children with brain injuries, and children with cerebral palsy. As the horse moves, the rider is constantly thrown off-balance, requiring that the rider’s muscles contract and relax in an attempt to rebalance - reaching deep muscles not accessible in conventional physical therapy. Repetition of patterned movements required in controlling a horse quickens the reflexes and aids in motor planning. Other activities like stretching can help tight muscles and spasms.
Horses, like humans, are social animals. They seek connection, develop friendships, and experience separation anxiety. Horses live in the present - they don't dwell on the past. The gift of being present allows the horse to be honest and transparent. It's the horse's choice to interact with the participant. Because horses can increase our ability to understand ourselves and others better, spending time with them can help us develop a sense of empathy and feel more oriented in the present and less burdened by guilt and fearful of the future.
Mental health professionals report positive results for those recovering from substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues. The engagement with the horse helps train neural pathways and provides a calming effect on the nervous system that allows the rider to respond to the world more proactively. The interaction with the horse has also shown to help individuals develop a work ethic, identify and process feelings, and learn how to trust.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
The Autism Research Institute denotes the long-term benefits of equine-assisted learning found in trials with youth, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. The study found that children who participated in a 10-week therapeutic horsemanship program exhibited improvements in irritability and hyperactivity, and increased word fluency compared to children participating in activities in a barn setting, but not interacting with horses.
STRC instructors want participants to use the tools and experiences they've learned in our program to help them move into a thriving place for more abundant and productive lives. Author and horsewoman, Linda Kohanov, has written several books on Equine Experiential Learning (EEL). A link to her website is provided below for those who would like to learn more.