Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
Equine Therapy, which is sometimes referred to as riding therapy or horseback therapy, will allow your son to have potentially life-changing experiences in an emotionally safe environment. During Equine Therapy, your son will work with a horse under the supervision of a horse professional and a clinician. At Discovery Ranch for Boys (DRB), Equine therapy has three main components that we call Ground Tasks, Colt Training, and Horsemanship.
Many troubled youths are resistant to therapy; however, Equine Therapy breaks down these barriers. Equine Therapy is beneficial and impactful because it has the power to challenge false beliefs. It is a unique type of experiential therapy because of the horses’ behavior. When therapeutic experiences take place in a natural environment, and not a doctor’s office, your son will become less defensive and more teachable. The experience and therapy happen in the moment.
Also, horses are social animals. The horses’ responses add a new dimension to experiential therapy. As prey animals, horses are acutely aware of the behavior of others. They respond well to compassionate, assertive behavior. However, they may become defiant or reactive when challenged. While your son will always be safely under the supervision of a horse professional, seeing the horses’ responses to him will help him to understand his own behavior better.
In experiential therapy, such as Equine Therapy, your son will experience emotional stress, challenges, and successes. During these experiences, he will receive coaching from therapists and staff members. This coaching will help him process the experience, and gain a deeper understanding of his feelings. With a deeper understanding of how his feeling relates to his behavior, then his behavior will improve.
Equine Ground Therapy
Your son will work with a group of other boys to complete assigned tasks. The tasks themselves are not as important about the behaviors that these tasks reveal. The way your son interacts with the horse and his peers will reveal his strengths and challenges. Your son’s group will have the opportunity to demonstrate their problem-solving skills. The social and emotional scrimmage involved will give him impactful experiences that create therapeutic insight. These valuable insights help them when they return home.
While your son is working with the horses and a group of boys, a clinician and a horse professional will observe the emotions and behaviors he displays. If they see emotions or behaviors that could benefit from intervention, they can provide guidance at the moment it is needed. Together, they can help your son evaluate, discuss, and teach how to understand himself better. Your son will remember this therapeutic intervention better because it will be tied to a unique, in the moment discussion about principles that affect happiness.
Horsemanship involves all the aspects of western riding and training horses. It also provides a great opportunity for your son to learn about assertiveness and understanding nonverbal communication. Because horses continually test the limits and boundaries of their riders, Horsemanship becomes excellent practice for human relationships.
During Horsemanship, your son will learn how to be assertive and have his needs met in relationships. He will understand that he is responsible for his life and relationships. As horse trainers often say, “Every horse is responsible for his own feet.” Your son will find his feet by learning how to set appropriate limits and establish healthy boundaries. The skills he learns in dealing with horses will help him to have healthier relationships with other people.
Colt Training will teach your son about the motivations, fears, and perceptions (or misperceptions) that exist in a young horse. Your son will have the opportunity to discuss the thoughts and feelings the horse is experiencing, and the way these thoughts and feelings relate to adolescents.
Like everyone else, troubled teens form perceptions based on their experiences. Their perceptions are their reality. However, very often their perceptions might be skewed and lead them to the wrong conclusions.
As part of colt development, your son will learn that the goal is not to change the horses’ behaviors. Instead, the objective is to change the horses’ perceptions. The colt is given guidance and appropriate pressure; however, the horse is responsible for his behavior. The horses’ behavior is influenced by his perceptions of authority.
During Colt Training, the clinician and horse professional are able to offer feedback about your son’s experiences. This feedback will help your son to rethink his perceptions. Similarly to training a colt, changing your son’s perceptions may help him to change his behavior.