Teen Therapy: Equine Therapy Helps with Behavior Issues

Horses symbolize powerful virtues. Two of them are freedom and stability.

The juxtaposition of these two concepts is what makes equine teen therapy particularly effective. On one hand, horseback riding provides that thrill teens crave, while on the other hand, horse care teaches teens about the benefits of responsibility.  

Those are just a couple benefits of equine therapy for at-risk teens. Throughout history, horses have been praised for their therapeutic qualities, starting with Hippocrates in 460 BC and continuing into the 19th century with French neurologist, Edouard Chassiagnac. He used horseback riding to improve motor skills and emotional balance.

Equine therapy was even used to rehabilitate British soldiers after WWII! 

The benefits of hippotherapy and equine therapy are now widely recognized throughout the medical community. In regards to teens, in particular, a study from the American Youth Horse Council also found that equine-related activities promote and improve life skills. It noted a direct connection between "horsemanship skills and life skills."

If you feel you've run out of options, equine therapy can provide a unique approach to treating your teen's depression and behavioral problems. Let's discuss more ways equine therapy can help. 

A Breath of Fresh Air

The first thing equine therapy does is bring your teen out of the city and into the fresh air of the countryside. Immediately, sunshine and fresh air can uplift your teen's mood and help them let go of those nagging negative thoughts. At-risk teens are truly free in the country and not lost in a sea of students or crowded streets.   

Yes, science agrees too!

According to a study from "The Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents", fresh air induces relaxation, lowers blood pressure, and decreases stress. Plus, high amounts of serotonin neurotransmitters, which are responsible for mood stabilization, are present during daylight savings time. Furthermore, increased amounts of fresh air and sunlight are shown to improve sleep, a common problem amongst teens. 

Fresh air also increases energy by 90% according to the University of Rochester. Plus, spending time outdoors is proven to boost your teen's immune system and ward off germs. Therefore, your teen is less lethargic, more positive, and alert, which is a recipe for more balanced behavior. 

Build Healthy, Positive Relationships 

Many at-risk teens have trouble identifying, forming, and maintaining positive relationships. This causes them to make bad choices and fall into the wrong crowds, creating behavioral problems in the process. 

It's an undisputed fact that when teens foster positive relationships, their behavior improves. A study from "The Journal of Early Adolescence" found that good behavior spreads rapidly through groups of teenagers, but bad behavior can spread just as rapidly. That's why it's crucial to separate your teen from negative influences. 

This is one aspect where equine therapy shines above the rest. 

At the ranch, teens learn the concept of positive relationships through fostering one with their own horse. It's all about trust. Not only does your teen have to trust their horse, their horse has to trust them. 

Mutual trust is the foundation of every healthy relationship, and when that trust is broken, it needs to be rebuilt. 

Here are a few ways equine therapy can build trust in troubled teens:

  • Horses naturally respond with fear when they encounter anger, bullying, yelling, or any other aggressive behaviors. To get their horse to trust them, your teen will have to approach that horse with calmness and care. This is an exercise in using positive behavior to receive a positive reaction. 
  • Animals don't express judgment like people do. Their reaction is pure and easy to read. They don't play mental games, hit, or hurl insults. Therefore, it's easier for teens to see and recognize their own problematic behavior.   
  • Horses are powerful animals and can intimidate teens. Your teen will be forced to overcome their fear by learning how to properly approach, mount, and ride their horse. 

Your teen will soon realize that they aren't so different from their horse. Like them, horses are reactionary, therefore, your teen will need to adjust their behavior to form that bond. 

Teen Therapy with A Strong Work Ethic

Taking care of a horse isn't a walk in the park. That's a good thing. 

A strong work ethic keeps teens focused and out of trouble. Not only will equine teen therapy teach your child to trust and build positive relationships, they will also get their hands dirty and make sure their horse is well taken care of. 

Equine therapy gives your teen a goal, and meeting positive goals requires positive behaviors. Your teen will inevitably grow proud of their horse, and therefore, make sure their horse performs and feels their best. At the ranch, your teen may be responsible for the following activities to promote good work ethic:

  • Training and exercise. 
  • Respond appropriately when their horse grows agitated. 
  • Make sure their saddle, straps, and accessories are properly installed.
  • Maintain their horse's stall.
  • Brush and groom their horse.
  • Feeding and nutrition 

Instilling a strong work ethic is crucial for mitigating bad behavior. In fact, more schools are testing programs that teach teens how to interview for jobs, go the extra mile at work, and stick to a weekly schedule. 

With equine teen therapy, your child can actually see the progress they've made. It proves that hard work, coupled with positive behavior, produces powerful rewards. In turn, your teen will shed the crippling self-doubt that keeps them trapped in that negative cycle of bad choices and bad behavior. 

This is your chance to address your teen's behavioral issues in a fresh new way.

If your teen is struggling to connect with their therapist, perhaps the key is connecting with an animal who can truly shine a light on their behavior. When you observe a jockey or rancher with their horse, the connection is undeniable.

Help your teen build the trust, positive relationships, and work ethic they need to successfully conquer challenges after high school and beyond. Get in touch today to start your teen on this new journey of growth and self-discovery.