“Horses … actively mirror how people show up each day, highlighting our hidden gifts, our wounds and our vulnerabilities. And yet somehow they manage to be discerning without a hint of judgment, communicating that at the core, we too are beautiful, powerful, and wise, capable of endless renewal.” (Linda Kohanov: A Tribute to Tabula Rasa)

NOFASD Australia has been told by families living with FASD that Equine Assisted Therapy is beneficial for their young people. One parent said that this is the only therapy which has enabled their teenager to talk about how his actions affect others. NOFASD reached out to professionals to learn more:

Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) involves interacting with horses and reflecting on these experiences with a therapist. Through these activities clients learn to be aware of their emotions and to regulate them. They also practice finding a place of calm in a situation which might be difficult or challenging. They do this by focusing on the horse, practicing self-awareness and regulating their breathing. As horses are highly responsive to human emotions, the horse gives immediate non-verbal feedback as to how well a client is staying calm and managing their emotions. Clients also practice assertiveness and leadership without aggression. Since the therapy is carried out through activities with horses much of it is non-verbal. This is effective for people who find it difficult to process language and talk about their problems.

EAT is used to assist people with a wide range of issues including recovery from trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, and difficulty controlling emotions. It is found to be particularly effective for young people who don’t fit into a mainstream counselling setting, including those with diagnoses of FASD, autism and ADHD. Goals such as staying calm and managing emotions can be achieved by practicing in the horse yard and at home.

EAT can assist people aged 3 and upwards to develop the following skills:

  • Calmness
  • Compassion
  • Concentration & Attentiveness
  • Confidence
  • Communication
  • Relationship building
  • Assertiveness & leadership skills
  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Self confidence
  • Self-awareness
  • Emotional and behavioural control
    (anger management)
  • Recovery from trauma

The information above was provided by Elizabeth Hannah, a psychotherapist who provides Equine Assisted Therapy & Narrative Therapy at Black Horse Therapies near Kyneton, Victoria. She can be contacted by email at blackhorsetherapies@westnet.com.au or through this link.

Kildonan UnitingCare’s Horses for Hope program recently completed an evaluation of their Equine Assisted Therapy program. Positive outcomes were reported by participants and participants’ parents/carers. Follow these links to read the full report or a two-page evaluation summary.

PLEASE NOTE: As with all strategies and interventions, Equine Assisted Therapy may not be for everyone. Please think about each individual’s needs before you register them for a new therapy or activity, and monitor their progress to ensure it is the right fit for that individual.

To read more blogs from NOFASD Australia click here.

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