Equitherapy: therapeutic effect of horses

The healing influence of animals is becoming increasingly widely accepted and used. Hospitals are increasingly using so-called animal therapy: sick people are allowed to pet, care for and hold small animals. Equitherapy builds on this by providing therapy with horses.

Origin of Equitherapy

The influence of horses on the human psyche was first investigated in 1909 by the physician R. Piekenbach. In his research report he recommended horse riding for skeletal strengthening, joint flexibility, appetite stimulation, general strengthening and he also mentioned the possible psychosomatic effects.

The Danish woman Lis Hartel ended up in a wheelchair due to Polio, but after much practice and an iron willpower, she returned to the back of her horse, eventually winning two Olympic silver medals in dressage. She is seen as the example of the effect of strong motivation on rehabilitation .

Hartel was also a great source of inspiration for many researchers, meaning that the number of publications in the field of therapeutic horse riding could no longer be counted on one hand. In 1970, the Kuratorium für Therapeutisches Reiten was even founded in Germany , where doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists, hippologists, educationalists and scientific research institutes joined forces and made many discoveries together.

In the 1990s, therapeutic horse riding emerged from this, which was developed from psychotherapy in combination with equestrian experts.

The Equitherapy itself

Equitherapy is a mixture of various therapeutic principles . Techniques from Gestalt psychology, Behavioral therapy, Client-centered therapy, System therapy and classical Psychotherapy are used.

The horse fulfills its own unique role in Equither apie. Equitherapy can best be seen as a trinity of client, horse and therapist. The horse offers various options in therapy. For example, the animal can unmask incongruence between body language and verbal behavior, make the client sensitive to place and space, offer a listening ear, divert the direct attention of the therapist and therapy and provide feedback in an indirect way . A horse can provide feedback on the client’s behavior through its body language and behavior. A horse will not walk with a client with an uncertain attitude/feeling and indicate this without making this clear with harsh words.

The applications of Equitherapy

Equitherapy can be used for a variety of problems. Below are some examples:

  • Psychosomatic disorders
  • Personality disorders (including Borderline)
  • Traumas
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention disorders
  • Emotional problems


Insurance and Equitherapy

There are not many insurers that (fully) reimburse equitherapy. Nevertheless, in most cases the therapy can be reimbursed via the Personal Health Budget ( PGB ).

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