What is equine-assisted therapy? It can be about having a person with physical aliments riding a horse to stimulate muscles and improve balance. It can be about connecting a veteran with post traumatic syndrome with a horse that help teach self control and anger management. It can be about an abused child becoming empowered by learning to control the movements of a large animal. It can be all these things and more. Wikipedia gives a very good description of equine–assisted therapy and the various methods of using horses to address specific physical, emotional, and mental therapeutic needs.
Why are horses such good therapists? The answer lies in it nature as a prey animal that has developed an acute sense of the energy of surrounding animals. Horses have survived the eons by reading and responding to other animals within their environment. Horses instantly understand your emotional state and they reflect it right back to you. The movements of a horseback rider mimics the natural movements of walking and can be superior to mechanical means for stimulating damaged muscles and improving balance.
Both Will Rogers and Winston Churchill have been credited with variations on the quote, “The outstide of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” Those of us who have been around horses easily see and understand their therapeutic value. However, the scientific research to verify the medical benefits of equine-assisted therapy have lagged behind and have resulted in many insurance programs not covering such treatments. some positive changes have recently occurred to open the doors to greater participation. The Veteran Affairs Montana Health Care System now collaborates with a Helena based therapist to offer equine-assisted therapy. Also in Helena, Carroll College’s Anthrozoology Program was one of the first in the nation to study the human bond with both equines and canines and they have begun a rigorous research program to examine the effectiveness of programs using both dogs and horses in therapeutic programs. While these two developments in Montana show positive momentum for equine-assisted therapy, the funding for such program remains very problematic. The bottom line for equine-assisted therapy is that horses and proper horse care is expensive and the therapy is often labor intensive, making equine-assisted therapy unaffordable for many who would benefit. Most programs providing equine-assisted therapy are constantly trying to raise funds in order to offer their services to those in need.
The Friends of Dunrovin, which is a 501c3 nonprofit organization affiliated with Dunrovin Ranch and DaysAtDunrovin.com hopes to support equine-assisted therapy through some creative and entertaining events. Our initial event is the Horse of a Different Color, which is an art and equine celebration and contest in which six artists will paint and decorate six Dunrovin horses and present them during a Painted Pony Parade at a dinner party on August 19, 2017. All funds raised from the event will be used for grants to Montana nonprofit organizations engaged in equine-assisted programs. Organizations can request information on how to apply for a grant by sending an inquiry to FriendsOfDunrovin@gmail.com.