Equine therapy & Horsemanship

What is Equine Therapy?

Equine Therapy helps individuals who have mental or emotional disorders. Many activities such as horse care, maintenance, grooming procedures, and saddlery target these areas.

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy strive to assist the individual with many of the same goals as Equine Therapy. However, physical therapy focuses more on gross motor movement and ability, occupational therapy focuses on fine motor ability, and speech-language therapy on the physiological systems associated with speech and language. Equine Therapy is able to provide a combination of these three therapies without giving the individual a feeling that they are in therapy.

Therapists who engage in Equine-Assisted Therapies all easily adapt Cognitive Therapy as well as play and talk therapy. Depending on the disorder and its severity the Equine therapist is able to make decisions about the processes or techniques applied in the sessions. Main techniques used are Cognitive Therapy, practicing activities, activity scheduling, play therapy and story telling and talk therapy.

What is Natural Horsemanship?

Natural horsemanship is the philosophy of working with horses by appealing to their instincts and herd mentality. It involves communication techniques derived from wild horse observation in order to build a partnership that closely resembles the relationships that exist between horses.

Here at the Natural Approach we teach you that it is possible for humans to learn to use body language to communicate with the horse. Horses use ear position, head position, speed of movement, threatening gestures, showing of teeth and swinging of hips, and many other gestures to communicate. They are quick to escalate behaviour if early warnings are not heeded. Similarly, in natural horsemanship, the handler or trainer uses body language along with other forms of gentle pressure with increasing escalation to get the horse to respond.

By being knowledgeable of the horse’s natural instincts and communication system a clear language can be established. A horse that feels calm and safe with his handler is quick to bond with that person, and the results can be remarkable.

At The Natural Approach we emphasize the use of groundwork to establish boundaries and set up communication with the horse. This can include leading exercises, long reining and liberty work. As with all successful animal training methods, there is an emphasis on timing, feel and consistency from the handler. Our ultimate goal is a calmer, happier and more willing partner in the horse.

Our aim is to re-educate people that through the use of behavioural reinforcement to replace inhumane practices used in some methods of training, the Natural horsemanship avoids fear- and pain-based training methods. While natural and gentle methods of training have been around for many years, there has also been any number of techniques over the years that attempted to train a horse by breaking the horse’s spirit, often forcing it to fight back and then be dominated or defeated.

At the Natural Approach we point out that by removing fear an individual gains trust from the horse. By not scaring and hurting the horse, the horse learns to work with people in a partnership.