Equine Therapy for Addiction in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Equine therapy is a new type of program that places horses and patients together under the guidance of trained mental health professionals. There are many benefits to equine therapy. 

What is Equine Therapy?

Equine therapy is not having someone put a saddle on a horse and let you ride it. Equine therapy is a reputable therapy in which our patients at DreamLife Recovery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania learn toluene, independence, assertiveness, self-regard, and more. A more complete list can be found here.

Horses are amazingly gentle and intuitive creatures. Here at DreamLife Recovery, all of our horses have been temperament tested and trained to be useful in therapy.

Is Equine Therapy Reputable?

Through the ages, horses have comforted people and brought them solace in hard times. Although horses have moved out of the center of many human’s lives the dynamic has not changed. Unlike dogs, horses are prey animals. This means that other animals eat them for food in the wild. So, they have evolved to by hyper aware and sensitive to their surroundings.

Patients with addiction often identify with this hyper-awareness and identify with the horses, helping create an even stronger bond. One exercise commonly done with horses is to place the horse in the center of a large circle. The health professionals introduce the patient into the outside of the circle. The patient’s goal is to get the horse to move outside of the large circle it is in without physically touching the horse in any way.

Many patients try to yell and whistle at the horse. That does not work. After the exercise, the health professional relates the exercise to the patient in a different way. If someone were to start yelling and whistling at you, would you come to them?

What are the Standards for Equine Therapy?

Most horses are not right for equine therapy. This means that even though you might have, and probably have dealt with horses in the past, equine therapy horses have to be the best in class in every class. Even the sound of their walking and their gait is evaluated. If a horse does not move correctly while walking and trotting, our patients will not get the maximum effect from their equine therapy. If the horse walks or trots incorrectly or has any sorts of health and temperament problems the horse is not considered for our equine therapy program. 

Our mental health professionals are also specially trained. There are many things about a horse that should be related to people before, during, or after, equine therapy. One example of something that it would be good to relate before is that the horse doesn’t bite while taking a treat. Horses use their lips a little while taking treats from a person’s hand. This can lead to the feeling that the horse is about to bite. In reality, it is using its lips to gather up the treat so that it doesn’t have to use its teeth. The feeling of a horse’s lips trying to take a treat is somewhat like thick, velvety, wiggly, rubber bands. You have to learn to trust the horse not to bite you even when you feel like your whole hand it almost in its mouth.

Besides reassurance and mental health help, our professionals keep you safe around the horses. Therapy horses are some of the best but you should still never walk behind a horse. Part of this is teaching less impulsivity and greater foresight. The other part of it is that horses cannot see behind them and you are far more likely to spook a horse from behind, where they cannot see you, than from the side where you are in full view.

Patients are in charge of not only learning how to ride a horse, but they are also responsible for grooming the horse and seeing to its needs like feeding and watering it. Feeding another living creature can be incredibly therapeutic for some and the love horses bring to us is life changing. Victims of addiction are not the only people who can benefit from equine therapy. People with mood disorders, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, and self-harm issues can also benefit from interacting with horses. Many people who are the victim of addiction also suffer from a mental illness. The pain of mental illness will often drive a person to abuse substances to find relief from their suffering.

Who Can Benefit from Equine Therapy?

It is worth noting that for the therapy to be effective it needs to be done under the guidance of a licensed professional. Our professionals are trained to help you work with horses. Not only that, they are trained to help you relate your experiences with the horses to everyday situations and thought patterns that people affected by mental illness and/or addiction often suffer from.

This is why our horses are from a nearby ranch dedicated to maintaining the horses and ensuring that their training is kept up to date. This way we at DreamLife can focus on healing you and leave the specialized horse training to other professionals to ensure maximum benefit to our patients. 

Equine therapy is good for people not only with all sorts of mental disorders but with physical disorders as well. Horses are very inclusive animals. 

Horses are majestic animals. They have a lot to offer, even in a non-therapy situation. Equine therapy, however, helps you or your loved ones get the maximum benefits of interacting with these animals. Here at Dreamlife Recovery, we love our horses. We hope that you will love them too. They have plenty of love in their hearts for you too. Click here for more information about us, our treatment plan, and our equine therapy program




Article Reviewed by Lidice Morales

Lidice MoralesLidice Morales, an honors graduate from the Kaiser University, has made a name for herself as the Director of Nursing at several behavioral health facilities and as the Director of Operations for Detox MD. Now she is the VP of Operations at DreamLife Recovery. She strives for better patient care through constant self-improvement and furthering her education. Her steadfast work ethic and passion in the field has remained the most important aspect of her professional career; showing dedication to not only the acquisition of new knowledge, but also its mastery. Lidice believes that a professional work atmosphere fosters cohesion and malleability amongst herself and her coworkers; thereby increasing both the level of patient care and quality of life.

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