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Equine Assisted Self-Regulation Therapy

Horses helping children, youth and adults heal


What is equine assisted emotional regulation?

Equine assisted emotional regulation is an experiential therapy for children and adults. Inherent to the horse is a highly developed limbic system – the part of the nervous system responsible for emotion and memory. The horse naturally pick up on what is happening in the moment in their environment and the therapist helps you use this information to achieve your own self-regulation.

Why horses?

Horses are well attuned to their immediate environment making them both intuitive and emotionally sensitive to the most minute gesture, posture, tension, tone or “look” they receive. As such they respond to non-verbal stimuli including behaviors and feelings which we might not even be aware of in ourselves. In real time the horse responds to what is happening in the moment which provides useful feedback and the chance to learn new and healthier responses in our relationships. Horses give real time feedback on every interaction offering you a perfect opportunity to self-regulate.

How will this treatment help me?

The horse interacts with the rider’s neurophysiology inducing a sense of calm, better body awareness, sensory integration, problem solving, self-confidence and self-confidence. Having a horse working alongside you in a session can address a variety of physical, social and emotional issues for you sometimes on the horse and other times off of the horse and has the added benefit of working at the level of psychotherapy, emotional regulation and social skills development.

Through equine assisted self-regulation, one can improve:

Where does this treatment take place?

The ONPC has partnered with Partridge Acres which is located at RR4, 758 John Kennedy Way, 15min west of Ottawa.

When is this treatment offered?

We offer weekly or bi-weekly appointments for individual sessions. The work is under the care of Dr. Michelle Presniak, C. Psych, and Wendy Lange-Faria, Registered Psychotherapist. Group workshops are offered on occasion as well.

How does it work?

Spending time around a horse or riding a horse stimulates most of our senses – in fact, the horse may be viewed as a 3-dimensional, tactile, moving surface. As the horse moves are rhythmic and repetitive during a session you can adapt to the movement. Riding provides input to the somatosensory system input of the body in motion.

Working with the horses is believed to impact many parts of our nervous system and brain, including the reticular activating system (which regulates wakefulness, circadian rhythm and attention), the limbic system (which is responsible in large part for our feelings, motivation and memory), and our frontal lobes (which allow us to be engaged, alert and learn). In addition, working with a horse helps us learn to “be in the moment”.

Some of the program will involve working with the horse on the ground and at times may involve riding on the horse. This can heighten certain aspects of the work especially enhancing our visceral and vestibular senses to enhance our equilibrium and balance, and emotional and physical connectivity with the horse. Overall, most of our communications with a horse rely on non-verbal skills, thus utilizing a deeper self-awareness, focus and cooperation to negotiate, have patience and team with a horse. Horses are very sensitive creatures and respond according to their own instincts. How clients treat them quickly determine how the horse acts.

Who is it for?

Is there research to support this?