Equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is an experiential therapeutic intervention in which horses provide a way to gain insight into difficulties clients are having in their lives. EAP is experiential in nature. Clients participate in activities involving horses and then discuss the feelings, behaviors, and patterns that emerge. These activities do not involve riding and are intended to represent the problems the client is experiencing in his or her life. So, the information gained from interacting with horses is directly applicable to the client’s life and relationships.
There are many reasons why working with horses is beneficial to people. Like humans, horses survive by living in a group where they socialize and depend upon one another. They establish relationships with each other through clear communication and acceptance of boundaries. Horses are very aware of what goes on around them and this sensitivity to their environment means that they can pick up on what may be going on emotionally within a human. Therefore, what may take months to access in a traditional therapy setting may be accessed right away through an interaction with horses. Horses are big and to work effectively with them, they require humans to be self-aware, to communicate clearly and to behave assertively and with purpose. Additionally, like people, horses have unique histories, personalities, and ‘issues,’ that make them easy for most humans to relate to and learn from. EAP is a powerful and effective therapeutic approach that has an incredible impact on clients. Becoming aware of non-verbal communication, practicing assertiveness, teaching problem-solving, taking responsibility, promoting teamwork, building relationships, increasing confidence and improving attitude are examples some of the benefits of EAP.