Equitherapy: process, benefits, for whom?

Healing the mind through the horse is what equine therapy offers. This therapy allows many interactions and work around cognitive and sensory aspects. What are the benefits and how does a session take place? Definition and discovery with Véronique Delespierre, clinical psychologist and equitherapist.

Definition: what is equitherapy?

Equitherapy refers to the use of the horse for the purpose of care and/or re-education in the physical and bodily, psychological and emotional, social and relational, cognitive and intellectual or behavioral dimensions. “It is exercised by a equitherapist specialist in the autonomous therapeutic management of people going through a difficult situation or suffering from mental and/or physical pathologies“, explains Véronique Delespierre. The framework of intervention, less worrying than the psychologist’s office, promotes emotional expression and bodily mobilization. Be careful, however. “It’s not neither sport nor adapted leisure“Wants to clarify the professional before adding”I use techniques borrowed from the various fields of psychotherapy, in particular cognitive-behavioral therapies, speech therapy and/or psychomotricitywhich I adapt to work with the horse and according to the pathology of the patient“.

What are the benefits of equine therapy?

The horse has different characteristics such as the sensitivity, strength, warmth, softness or rocking. It can thus symbolize the maternal and paternal aspects according to the needs of the patient and the objectives of the therapist. “These different aspects give rise to reactions, awareness or learning that can be used in a therapeutic context. In particular, they allow the person to become aware of your limits, develop self-confidence (and/or in others), self-assertion, creativity, taking responsibility, developing awareness of one’s sensations and their non-verbal behaviors“details the specialist before adding”However, the horse is not the caregiver, it is the quality, the know-how, the experience of the equitherapist, both vis-à-vis the patient and vis-à-vis the horse that will allow to remedy or ameliorate psychological or physical difficulties”.

Equitherapy is only suitable for people who agree to try the experience.

Who can do horse therapy?

Like any therapy, it is only suitable for people who agree to try the experiment, and this even if they feel a certain apprehension. Defeating it improves self-confidence. “I welcome children from 2 years old, teenagers, adults, elderly people with a disability or a more transient difficulty. I also travel to an EHPAD with one of my horses”, says Véronique Delespierre. “People come by word of mouth, are referred by a doctor or by a medical, social or medico-social establishment for different difficulties“. The indications are diverse, they range from Personal development to assertiveness through relationship difficulties, Anxiety and/or Depressive Disorders, Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Hyperactivity, Learning Difficulties, Motor Disorders, sensory, cognitive, memory, language, psychotic pathologies, or even behavioral disorders. As the specialist explains, the only contraindication is allergy to horse hair, straw or hay. Other problems can be compensated by suitable equipment or additional human intervention.

The session does not necessarily take place on horseback

A long equine therapy session 1 hour and is tailored to each person’s individuality. Véronique Delespierre offers activities related to meeting the horse, adapted to each individual, proposed according to the objectives motivating the initial request and the changes observed. They do not necessarily take place on horseback, but always with the horse. “During the sessions, several activities are offered. Depending on the objectives, the person will have to experiment with multiple forms of encounter: approaching the herd in the meadow, entering the confined space of the box, interacting with the horse on the lunge, playing with the horse in freedom, touching , feeling, cuddling, being led by the horse, on the horse…” says the psychologist. The session often begins with making contact with the equine, the grooming, the harness in order to create a special relationship with the animal, to work on communication, motor skills finesse and manual dexterity. “On horseback, I may have to organize relaxation, sophrology, meditation, mindfulness sessionshandling the horse using, for example, small orientation courses that will allow you to work on spatio-temporal orientation, balance, memory, communication“, continues the specialist. The session ends with the reward of the equine (distribution of carrots, for example) before putting it back in the meadow with its congeners.

Is horse therapy effective for autism?

People with autism spectrum disorder sometimes suffer from mental retardation, often severe and profound. “the pony allows sensory work (warmth, softness, smells, etc.), relational, infraverbal communication), tonic (reinforcement of axial tone, paravertebral musculature, thigh adductors) and psychomotor (eye-hand coordination, balance corrections, etc.). The rhythm of the horse’s gaits has a soothing effect and contributes to the reduction of stereotypiesin particular the balancing“, details Véronique Delespierre.

Where to do equine therapy?

There are equitherapists all over the territory, however, there are, to date and in France only three training organizations which present the qualities of teaching and pedagogy necessary to take charge of a patient in equine therapy, once qualified: the FENTAC (National Federation of Therapies with the Horse), Ifeq (Equitherapy Training Institute) and the SFE (French Equitherapy Society). “Getting closer to these organizations makes it possible to ensure the training, competence and seriousness of the equine therapist“. On the other hand, “The pleasure provided by the contact with the animal increases the motivation to learn”.

What is the price of an equine therapy session?

Véronique Delespierre charges for a session 52 €. For an individual session, the price range is between 50€ and 70€.

thanks to Veronique Delespierreclinical psychologist and equitherapist.

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Equitherapy: process, benefits, for whom?

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