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When humans experience traumatic events or live with mental illness, relationships are among the first aspects of their lives to suffer. A loss of trust, decreased self-worth, an inability to empathize and self-absorption are all common symptoms in trauma survivors or those who suffer from addiction and other mental health disorders. It can take a long time — even years — to rebuild the ability to form healthy and constructive interpersonal bonds. But therapists have long recognized the benefits of animal companions to nurture their clients’ ability to love, trust and care for another living thing. Equine therapy, also called equine-assisted therapy, refers to animal therapy that specifically focuses on the bond between humans and horses to encourage the building of healthy, caring relationships.

Historically, horses have been a constant companion for humans. Without horses, society as we know it would be shaped very differently — they have been alongside us as we hunted, farmed and built cities. They are known to be remarkably strong and intelligent creatures with distinct personalities, immense emotional intuition and quick learning abilities. The relationships between horse handlers and their horses are known to be deep emotional bonds similar to how many people feel about their household pets. Horses’ impressive size and strength is a beautiful reminder of the miracle of the natural world around us — it is at once humbling and awe-inspiring to be in the presence of a horse. Equine therapy usually includes calming activities like riding, grooming, feeding or walking, and is guided by a trained therapist to ensure proper techniques for the safety of both the clients and horses.

Equine Therapy for Trauma and Mental Health Disorders

Traumatic experiences, particularly when the cause of the trauma is another person, can deeply impact a victim’s ability to feel safe and comfortable in the presence of others. When you form emotional relationships with family, friends or romantic partners, you allow yourself to be open with them. In a healthy relationship, you can feel confident that your loved ones will not use this vulnerability against you. When this confidence is shaken, though, the relationship can suffer; and if your trust was betrayed in a way that hurt you deeply, it often affects your ability to maintain relationships with others. Difficulty trusting others is a common problem in those who have experienced trauma or emotional distress at the hands of someone close to them. In such cases, therapies that focus on helping you learn how to build trusting relationships again — like equine therapy — are necessary for you to overcome your experiences and make progress towards a healthy and productive life.

Relationships can also suffer due to mental health disorders like addiction, eating disorders, depression and anxiety. Though you may not be acting in ways your healthy and rational self would, you can still hurt those close to you if you prioritize a substance or compulsion over your health and your relationships. In many cases, it hurts your loved ones to see you hurting yourself. When you decide to seek treatment for mental health concerns, the process of taking responsibility for yourself and your actions is important in rebuilding damaged relationships. Equine therapy can provide a structured way for you to learn how to nurture a relationship and how to be a loving and giving friend, family member or partner.

Equine Therapy at The Guest House

Our secluded 52-acre estate includes an on-site stable with gentle therapy horses available for guests to work with during equine therapy sessions. Our equine therapy program is guided by our clinical staff member Jody Cross, a certified experiential therapist with extensive experience with equine-assisted therapy among other credentials and expertise. Jody and her colleagues at The Guest House come with years of experience providing a range of traditional, creative and clinical therapies. Individuality is one of our guiding principles; we know that each of our guests will benefit most from treatments that are uniquely suited to their background and experiences. Alongside equine therapy, some of our other therapeutic modalities include:

  • Psychodrama
  • Individual therapy
  • Yoga/meditation
  • Group therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Neuroimaging
  • Art therapy

The Guest House Ocala is a place of comfort, rest and recovery, offering premier amenities and top-quality treatments to provide everything you need for complete and holistic healing. We guarantee every one of our clients the respect and open-mindedness they deserve.