Equine-Assisted Therapy in Tennessee: How Horses Help Your Recovery From Addiction


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Making the decision to get clean from addiction is the start of a process that can be long, stressful, and sometimes lonely, even when you have a lot of support. One solution is the introduction of animals into the therapy routines to provide companionship that helps patients find purpose in life. Cats and dogs are wonderful animals for this purpose, but patients cannot always have them in their living space during recovery. Bringing horses into the situation through the use of equine-assisted therapy delivers animal companionship in a way that’s non-committal yet helps you find yourself through the care of an animal.

Why Use Horses for Recovery From Drug Addiction?

Patients who have never cared for horses are not aware of their unique needs, how they respond to people, and what goes into handling them on a daily basis. Horses have their own expressive language, and it’s highly rewarding to know when a horse appreciates the efforts that are being put into its care. You, as a patient, have to learn, observe, and recognize the body language of a horse to know that you’re doing the right thing and if you should continue or not. These cues can be used for your own personal reflections and show you that it is possible to view yourself in a different light.

The horse is a non-judgmental partner that responds to the stimulation delivered by the person it’s working with. It’s how people learn and respond to others, but horses lack the critical thinking skills that lead people to develop negative thinking patterns and engage in self-destructive behaviors. Understanding how a horse’s mind works can help you find insight into the reasons why you’ve taken certain actions, including addiction.

Developing Personal Accountability

As a general rule, horses are low-maintenance as long as they’re provided with the basic necessities of food, water, and shelter. Supplying these necessities is a key factor in their care, and you can’t always rely on someone else to do it for you. Or if someone else does step in, taking turns is important, so everyone gets a break from daily duties. Horses aren’t capable of turning on taps, opening up hay bales, and letting themselves out to a pasture for forage when kept in a domestic setting, which means you have to be accountable for their care.

Taking care of the horse’s basic needs is a simple yet effective way to build the internal structures you need to engage in personal responsibility. That is, you get into positive habits that help another being live their best life and make you feel good about your efforts. Over time, this sense of responsibility and accountability becomes something you engage with people in ways that are healthy, develop and maintain boundaries, and help you become a dependable individual.

How Horses Help You Change Your Behaviors

Horses are sensitive to stimuli and are quick to engage in fight-or-flight behaviors when they feel threatened. It’s something that’s present in mammals as a general rule, but horses live in a state of constant awareness, even though it may not seem that way as you watch them go about their day. For example, the simple act of approaching a horse has specific rules that you may find yourself familiar with, something that can start you thinking differently about how you view your relationships with people.

As you progress in your relationship with one or more horses, you get insight into their personalities, what commands they recognize, and how they respond to your requests. You see first-hand how your actions affect the horse and can help you reflect on how you react. The overarching goal of horses in addiction recovery is to help you become a better you and see how life can be without the emotional trauma and issues that led you to substance abuse.

A First-Hand Experience in a Beneficial Partnership

Working with and riding horses involves developing a partnership with a horse that you learn how to trust. The horses used for addiction recovery are ones that are patient, calm, and put up with the mistakes people make as they learn. The gentle forgiveness these horses provide serves to create a bond of trust between you and the horse, something that you build upon over time. In turn, you learn that it’s possible to experience the feelings of a positive relationship without guilt or other negative emotions that you associate with the connection.

The beneficial partnership you build with the horse becomes elevated the moment you start riding. Getting into the saddle takes effort, even when you have assistance, and you find yourself sitting high off the ground when you’re settled. Not only are you high off the ground, but you are also on top of a moving animal that shifts its weight underneath you as both of you find your balance. The horse is used to this, but you have to find your ability to trust the horse, adjust to the changes, and not panic when you ask the horse to walk forward. It’s not as easy as it sounds, yet it helps you find inner strength you never knew you had.

Equine-Assisted Therapy Helps You Become Healthy Again

Horses help you feel good about yourself, show you how caring for them gives you a sense of purpose, and help you feel less alone in the world. The lessons you learn from caring for them to becoming an effective rider give you tools that you can apply in a variety of situations that you may find yourself in.

In summary, the act of working with a horse helps you develop the mental space you need for self-reflection, forgiveness, and leaving your old self behind. You find it’s possible to heal from the damage caused by addiction and live a wonderful life without the need to use substances.

Learn More About Equine-Assisted Therapy in Pulaski, Tennessee

The bond that develops between a horse and a human brings with it the potential for finding purpose in life. The simple act of caring for a horse can show you how you can care for yourself and feel better about life without addiction. Call Magnolia Ranch Recovery at 888-992-7955 today to learn more about how our equine-assisted therapy program and other services can help you find your way to a clean and sober lifestyle.

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Picture of Esra Ahmed - MS, NCC, LPC, MHSP
Esra Ahmed - MS, NCC, LPC, MHSP

Experienced Clinical Director with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & health care industry. Skilled in Anger Management, Healthcare, Medicine, EMDR, and Life Transitions. Strong healthcare services professional with a Masters Degree focused in Psychology from The University of Memphis.

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