Equine Therapy

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Equine Therapy

Equine-assisted therapy incorporates horses into the therapeutic process.

During equine therapy, you take part in grooming, feeding, and leading a horse with the support of a professional therapist. Equine therapy can help build trust, empathy, confidence, and emotional awareness.

Humans have used equine therapy for thousands of years. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who historians call the “Father of Medicine,” wrote about the healing potential of therapeutic riding.

Horses are unique animals. They have similar social and responsive behaviors to humans, making it easy for you to build a deep connection with a horse. In developing this connection, you explore communication, trust, and honesty in a new way.

Research has shown that equine therapy may help you construct a positive self-image and give added support during treatment. Building self-esteem and self-love is an integral part of the healing process. It empowers you to reconnect with your sense of self and develop strong and healthy relationships with others. This lays the foundations for life-long recovery.

Equine Therapy Overview

The Benefits of Equine Therapy

Communication and Feedback

Equine-assisted activities and therapy allow you to explore communication in a unique way. Interacting with the horse is not like interacting with a counselor, friend, or family member. Communication and feedback are non-verbal and reflect our inner feelings and intuitions.

Horses are highly aware of their surroundings and our intentions. Gaining a horse’s trust involves being honest in these intentions. Likewise, when a horse learns to trust you, you know it has accepted your inner self.

Working with horses also teaches you how to ask for help. When you are in the grasp of addiction, reaching out for support can be difficult.

Before you gain a horses’ trust, asking for help may be necessary. You may feel some frustration when the horse does not respond as you would like. You may need to ask your therapist for advice on what to do next.

In these moments, you learn to look inwards to yourself and your limitations to overcome the problem. Treatment teaches you to be vulnerable and to speak to people when you need to.

Trust and Honest Connection

Establishing trust with a horse is an incredibly rewarding experience. It is a result of hard work, effort, and honest communication. From this point, the connection between you and the horse is genuine, and it may even follow you around the stables and arena.

The experience helps us to communicate better with our friends, family members, and other loved ones. It helps us develop honest and meaningful relationships that can support us through recovery and the years ahead.


Many people assume that equine therapy involves getting straight on a horse and are apprehensive if they have never done it before. However, equine therapy centers more around building a trusting relationship with the animal before you think about riding.

Our equine specialists will teach you everything you need to know before you ride, and they will be in control for as long as you need. One of the benefits of equine therapy is the gentle rhythm of slow riding is relaxing; however, we will not ask you to do anything you are not yet ready for.

A Different Kind of Treatment

Every person is different. We all learn in different ways, respond to different stimuli, and have different needs.

Some people learn best through hands-on experience. Equine therapy, along with the other enriching activities, gives these people the chance to flourish.

Equine therapy is also valuable simply because it is different. Participants describe it as a ‘break from usual treatment’ that helps you remain engaged, interested, and immersed in a treatment program. Research has also found that taking part in hobbies such as art, music, or gardening leads to better satisfaction and makes you more likely to complete your treatment.

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The Unique Characteristics of Horses

Non-judgmental and Unbiased

Horses respond to your behavior and intentions and do not judge you by your physical appearance or past mistakes. This helps build your self-confidence and self-esteem as you feel accepted for who you are. It helps us think about which character qualities are valuable and what is important to us in others.

Feedback and Mirroring

Horses are prey and herd animals. They are incredibly alert and sensitive. Often, they provide feedback earlier and more consistently than a human can.

Horses have an inherent tendency to mimic your movements, behaviors, and emotions. This can be a magical and enriching experience that allows you to ‘feel felt.’

Feedback and mirroring help you become more aware of yourself. This awareness enables you to develop as a person and form healthy relationships with others. It is a fundamental part of recovering from addiction.

Equine Therapy for Co-Occurring Disorders

Equine therapy is a powerful tool. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists use equine-assisted activities for many therapeutic purposes.

Equine therapy became popular in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s as a therapy for people with special needs. The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) was formed to promote its benefits across the country.

Inspired by its success, people began to incorporate equine therapy in mental health treatment programs, such as anxiety and depression. A group of medical and equine professionals formed the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). EAGALA continues to research, explore, and promote the healing powers of horses for mental health conditions.

Around 70% of our clients have a co-occurring disorder or mental health issue underlying their addiction. Treating these conditions is an essential part of effective treatment. If ignored, co-occurring disorders can cause addictive behaviors to re-emerge, even after periods of long periods of sobriety.

Equine therapy can be a powerful tool for treating co-occurring disorders. If you have an anxiety disorder, processing difficult situations through a horse’s behavior can be easier than talking about your own experiences with anxiety. Working with horses also allows you to step outside of your comfort zone in a safe environment.

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Our Facilities

At Cirque Lodge, our Studio facility offers an indoor and outdoor horse arena so that you can benefit from equine therapy all year round.

From our outdoor arena, you have spectacular views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains, and the magnificent scenery adds additional therapeutic value to the experience. The facilities at Cirque Lodge are unique in the United States.

At Cirque Lodge, we consider our horses as our partners. We treat them with complete respect and care – they are a valuable part of our team.

One particular horse, Sampson, has an incredible story. Sampson is a horse in recovery from a range of mistreatments, including being forced to take cocaine. Working with Sampson can be an incredibly inspiring experience. You can read more about Sampson here.

Rehabilitation as an Experience

Enriching experiential activities like equine therapy are fundamental to a holistic healing experience.

At Cirque Lodge, we understand that lifelong recovery requires reconnecting with your mind, body, and spirit. It involves finding inspiration in the world around you and rediscovering your love of life free from addiction.

While recovery can be difficult at times, we feel it should also be a fun and enriching experience. Our rehabilitation program can help you find a fresh perspective on life that will be a foundation for your recovery journey ahead.

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Cirque Lodge offers a combination of experiential, behavioral, and group therapies to provide a holistic and enriching treatment experience.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, please contact us today. We can help.