Horses And Healing…What is the Connection?


For thousands of years, people have sought to have a relationship with their horses. Riding them is exhilarating, of course, but these gentle giants have some more remarkable to offer us, and many individuals have discovered more about this over the years.

During the last few decades, equine assisted therapy has become a popular type of treatment for mental health problems and psychiatric disorders like anxiety, eating disorders and depression. Why? It’s all about a horse’s extraordinary ability to read body language.

When your daughter participates in our boarding school’s equine therapy program, the horse she works with will easily be able to read her body language and determine her true emotional state.

She can’t lie or remain in denial of her own emotional state in this type of relationship.

Horses and the WHIP Program

A program and study performed on prison inmates in Florence Colorado, called the WHIP (Wild Horse Inmate Program), showed exactly how healing a connection with a horse can be. The inmates who participated in the program were violent criminals; some were involved in gangs. Each one was mistrustful, angry and aggressive. The inmates were tasked with taming and gentling wild mustangs during their stay at the prison. It quickly became obvious to them that approaching the horses in anger, frustration or fear didn’t work. They had to change their own actions and emotions in order to calm the horses and be able to approach them.

Equine Assisted Therapy at Greenbrier

Equine assisted therapy at Greenbrier Academy for Girls works a little differently but involves some of the same concepts. With the help of a horse professional and therapist, your daughter will build a relationship with a horse, engaging the animal in various tasks and activities. She’ll learn how to use her communication skills and how to become more self-confident.

Many changes will take place before she even touches the horse. Horses have a special ability to sense a person’s emotions and read their body language. If your daughter approaches her horse aggressively or angrily, the horse will become obstinate. If your daughter is anxious or scare, the horse will react in fear as well.

From the very beginning, your daughter will be able to see her inner emotions mirrored in the actions of the horses. This improves self-awareness, giving her the ability to understand her emotions more easily so she can step out of the cycle of denial and begin making changes for the better.

Benefits of Equine Therapy

Research has shown that equine therapy can lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress and relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s also been shown to be very beneficial to individuals with addictions, eating disorder and mental health disorders.

In addition to helping your daughter identify and change her emotional state, equine therapy can also help with communication. Horses don’t respond well to force, but they also don’t respond to detachment. If your daughter communicates this way in her human relationships, she’ll quickly learn that she must communicate openly, honestly, and with trust in order to make this new relationship work.

Equine therapy is an extremely beneficial type of therapy offered at Greenbrier boarding school. Learn more about it here.

Leave a Comment