Can Horses Help My Mental Health and Addiction Recovery?

When combined with traditional psychotherapy, activities involving horses can help people suffering from a range of mental conditions and addiction. Learn how horses are helpful and ways to incorporate them into a recovery plan.

Just the Facts

Some fun things to discover about horses and treatment include:

  • Horses have been involved with physical, occupational and speech therapy for a long time
  • Equine-assisted therapy has been used for mental health issues including depression, ADHD and PTSD
  • In less than two sessions, therapy with horses can build self-esteem, concentration, relaxation and other benefits

Humans and horses have maintained a healthy relationship for millennia with research suggesting it began long ago in the western region of the Eurasian Steppe. From being transportation animals to key players in mental health rehabilitation, many people around the world have benefitted from work with horses.


Hippotherapy utilizes the movement of horses for physical, occupational or speech therapy and has been used to treat motor and sensory issues associated with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or stroke, among others. This paved the way for other types of therapeutic support, including equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP).


Equine-assisted therapy is a type of therapeutic technique which uses horses to help in treatment of psychological and behavioral issues. This newer activity isn’t widely practiced yet but it is a rapidly growing field of work. How it works is this:

  • The rhythmic movement of horses can assist with motor and sensory issues
  • Horses are prey animals, highly attuned to the environment and sensitive to people’s emotional states than even dogs or other animals in assisted therapy settings
  • Large and powerful, horses allow people to overcome fear and develop confidence that can be translated into real-life. This builds a pathway to non-judgment for individuals also
  • Social animals are willing to interact when people are engaged and work to build a relationship with the horse

Techniques used by the handler may range from role-playing, role-reversal, mirroring, choosing, grooming and walking the horse as well as saddling and support the horse through different exercises. An individual may experience the following benefits:

  • Self-esteem
  • Communication skills
  • Self-awareness
  • Relaxation
  • Empowerment
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Self-control
  • Focus and concentration
  • Happiness

These along with other benefits such as decreased anger, depression and aggression is helpful for individuals with mental health issues or addiction.

The Villa can provide support for individuals who are seeking to find ways of interacting better with their recovery process. If you are struggling in recovery from addiction or need help call us for support. We are here to help you.