The best residential treatment centers offer experiential activities for teens to practice applying the skills they’ve learned in other settings. Integrating therapeutic elements into experiential activities, like equine therapy, helps teens feel more invested in the process. At Seven Stars, students on the spectrum have the opportunity to participate in equine therapy on a monthly basis and build relationships with the horses. Choosing a residential treatment center that offers equine therapy can help teens practice important relational skills and life skills.

What is Equine Therapy?

Equine therapy is a form of experiential therapy that consists of interactions between students and horses. Students participate in equine therapy that consists of grooming horses, playing games with them on the ground, and eventually, riding them. They work with the same horse each time they attend an equine therapy session, which allows them to form a bond with an individual horse, helping them build relationships and communication skills.

“During equine therapy, students learn how to interpret the behaviors that they see in the horses and apply it to their own lives,” says Dr. Gordon Day, Executive Clinical Director and Founder of Seven Stars. “Horses are social creatures that are greatly affected by the emotions and behaviors of those around them. They give constant feedback based on their surroundings, which can help students on the spectrum build an understanding of social cues.”

Horses Teach Relational Skills

Equine therapy is so different from any other form of therapy for teens with autism. This nonverbal communication between the horse and the rider may include the fact that horses constantly mirror and respond to the rider’s body language. Horses don’t judge who you are, they only care about how you act around them. If a person acts scared or upset around a horse, the horse can perceive that and will not behave well around you. On the other hand, if you are gentle and non-aggressive towards a horse, they will accept you and eventually form a bond. As teens work with their horse, they begin to let down their guard with the therapists. Once they are no longer focused on themselves, their problems and their attitudes, they are more likely to open up. 

Equine Therapy Builds Life Skills

As horses naturally mirror the attitudes of their caretakers, teens quickly learn how their attitudes and actions affect others. Taking care of the horse requires teens to learn new skills that they may have struggled with in other settings. During equine sessions, therapists model and teach what behaviors are acceptable when one is frustrated. Caring for a horse requires time, patience, and kindness. Equine therapy helps teens with:

  • Communication
  • Building positive relationships
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Giving back
  • Self-awareness
  • Non-verbal communication

Equine Therapy in Treatment Centers for Teens with Autism

Equine therapy can be a transformative experience for teens with autism who have struggled with nonverbal communication skills. For many students, interacting with horses is something they’ve never done before and can be intimidating at first. As they build a relationship and sense of trust with their horse, it can be a wonderful confidence booster. It gives teens the opportunity to show leadership skills as they are empowered to take care of the animal and to regulate their emotions in order to maintain the relationship.

Seven Stars Can Help

Seven Stars is a residential treatment program for young men and women ages 13-17 struggling with neurodevelopmental issues such as autism and ADHD. The program provides acute care stabilization, residential treatment, academic programs, adventure-based therapy, skill-building, and positive psychology. These various programs and therapies help students to improve their confidence, self-awareness, and personal management. Seven Stars provides students with individualized access to the resources they need to transition to the real-world practicing healthier habits and self-control. We can help your family today!

Contact us at 844-601-1167 to learn more about our recreation programming.