July 15th marks Horse Appreciation Day – a day in which people across the country admire one of the earth’s most majestic creatures. Read more about how horses can help heal cancer patients and their caregivers.
Horses have a longstanding working relationship with humans, from being an early form of transportation to assisting with farm work. In recent years, these strong creatures have undertaken yet another impressive role as assisted therapy animals. Horses have become an important partner for many occupational therapists. Their impressive resume doesn’t stop there, as many health professionals also find horses to be great additions to cancer patient therapy. This practice, referred to as equine therapy, can be carried out in a variety of ways. From walking alongside a horse to riding atop one, equine therapy can have amazing impacts on both cancer patients and their loved ones.
Still unsure about equine therapy? Here’s five reasons why you should give it a try:
- Fostering a deep connection, whether an animal lover or not
For some people, bonding with an animal is easy. Some are naturally drawn to animals of all types while others tend to shy aware from such creatures. Horses are one of the few animals that work hard to form a connection with a human. Horses respond to patients in unique ways, such as mirroring their emotions. Horses are even known to sync their heartbeat with their rider (or walker), fostering a deep connection.
- Physical rehabilitation
Not all aspects of equine therapy are psychological. This unique form of therapy also has positive effects on physiological measures. Caring for a horse requires a lot of simple actions that have great effects such as hand-eye coordination and low-impact exercise.
Whether learning something new or having the ability to do something by oneself, equine therapy can be an extremely empowering experience for cancer patients. Patients involved in this type of therapy often express feeling a sense of control and the ability to overcome fear and nervousness.
- Reduced anxiety
It is difficult to understand the exact reason why patients feel less anxious after participating in equine therapy. Perhaps it has to do with the sense of empowerment. Maybe it is the physical exercise. It may even be the unique connection formed with the beautiful animal. Regardless of why patients experience less anxiety after equine therapy, feeling more relaxed and clear-minded is something most cancer patients could greatly benefit from.
- A much-needed change of scenery
Hospitals are an amazing network of resources and teams. Society would truly be devastated without them. As amazing as they may be, their sterile hallways can often feel like a prison for a long-term patient. Many outstanding types of therapies can take place within the confines of a hospital, but equine therapy is not one of them. This type of therapy requires patients to travel somewhere green and fresh. Getting fresh air in a wide-open field can be rejuvenating in and of itself. The green pastures offer an opportunity to tune out all disease-related thoughts and live in the moment.
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