How Horses Help with Mental Health Issues


Equine-assisted therapy, which involves interacting with horses, is a popular therapeutic option, particularly among teenagers. Horses’ unusual sensitivity, as well as their oft-cited trait of being “nonjudgmental,” aids kids in developing similar qualities toward themselves.

Children must be fully present during equine-assisted therapy (EAT). They must be aware of and respond to delicate cues from horses. Also, they need to perform problem-solving tasks at the moment in ways that prompt introspection, self-awareness, and insightful revelations that are beneficial to the therapeutic process. Certain studies even suggest that equine therapy is superior to regular talk therapy on some levels because you don’t need to speak to communicate with the horses.

What Is Equine Therapy?

Professionals accompany clients through activities using horses in equine-assisted treatments. There are various types of horse programs, each with its own set of goals for the participants. Some of the programs are associated with mental health care. Clients may also be riding horses as part of a physical or occupational therapy program.

Equine Assisted Therapy for Mental Health

Equine therapy also reduces negative symptoms in depressed and anxious youngsters. Participants in one study reported feeling less depressed and more psychologically well-adjusted both immediately after participating in equine therapy and six months afterward!

Horses have also been proven to be quite beneficial to adolescents with autism or who have experienced trauma in the past. Equine therapy considerably alleviated symptoms in adolescents who had been physically mistreated and neglected as children in one trial of teenagers (Schultz 2007). About 19 horse-assisted sessions were given to these adolescents and teens by qualified equine therapists in collaboration with researchers. 

The individuals’ trauma symptoms improved in all of them (which included depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, ADHD, anger, withdrawal, and more). Furthermore, the number of sessions provided was directly (and considerably) connected to the reduction in unpleasant symptoms.

There are several views as to why horses can help people with PTSD symptoms. In a thorough assessment of the research, O’Haire (2015) finds that traumatized adolescents commonly face elevated levels of needless arousal. Since it is “a calming reminder that danger is no longer there,” being in the presence of a calm horse lessens anxiety arousal. The horse’s tranquility encourages teens to be more present at the moment by emulating the animal’s behavior.

Horses (and other animals, such as dogs) have also been found to induce positive feelings of contentment and warmth, making them reassuring and delightful to be around for children with PTSD. Humans produce oxytocin when they are among animals.

Responsive Equine Simulator Therapy (REST) stands for Responsive Equine Simulator Therapy. It’s a little therapeutic chair that healthcare experts, school districts, and parents recommend for special needs children to help them relax, focus, and calm down. 

In all planes of motion, the REST chair replicates a walking horse. The REST chair accomplishes this by bringing the benefits of equine motion indoors without the need for a horse. It’s suitable for use in therapists’ offices, classrooms, or homes because of its price, size, and versatility.

kid sitting on the REST chair


How Do Equine Assisted Therapy Aid People Suffering from Mental Illness?

Horses have long been used for therapeutic purposes, with equine therapy being used to treat a variety of emotional and psychological difficulties. Nevertheless, what is it about hanging out with our pony pals that make us feel at ease? Working with and caring for horses can help us enhance our mental health and well-being in a variety of ways.

Relying On Us

Like all animals, horses rely on people for a variety of things, including food, housing, and care. Working with horses teaches us about their daily needs and how to care for them. We can learn to be dependable and get a sense of perspective and focus by understanding how horses rely on us, which can help us better understand our own feelings and thoughts.

Getting Us in Shape

Physical activity and good mental health are well-established, and horseback riding is an excellent method to take care of both our physical and emotional well-being. Riding strengthens limbs, improves posture, and balance, all of which serve to keep our bodies healthy and fit. Also, not to mention how mucking out keeps us active!

Bringing Us Joy

Human-animal connection is well recognized as a natural mood enhancer. Spending time with animals has been demonstrated in several studies to lessen disorders like depression, tension, and anxiety, as well as enhance positive thinking and happiness levels. Horses are attentive to the feelings of others as herd animals and are excellent calming influences.


It may be difficult for parents and educators of ADHD children to manage normal daily events. Every day is difficult to deal with a frustrated child, but there is hope. Equine therapy and simulators can provide the benefits of riding a horse without the responsibility of caring for and maintaining a live animal. It enables your child to remain peaceful and relaxed, which is beneficial in many aspects of their life.

Therefore, if you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health illness, you should recommend equine simulator therapy to them.

REST: Because it works

It’s time to put REST into your life. And take advantage of all of the benefits equine therapy has to offer any time, any place. At Gait, we firmly believe it will be a powerful, rewarding, and effective tool for helping treat your special needs child, children, or adult.


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Phone: 844-264-REST