Harnessing the Power of Equine Therapy for Eating Disorder Healing


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Horses are beautiful creatures. Horses also have the potential to help you heal and recover from your eating disorder. Learn more about equine therapy, its benefits, and its role in recovery.

What Is Equine Therapy?

Equine therapy is a form of treatment that allows you to gain valuable skills through interactions with horses. While equine therapy might sound like you’re just standing around with horses, this type of animal interaction can be thoughtfully folded within your eating disorder treatment plan. 

Horses are sensitive to the emotions of humans, which may then be reflected in their behavior. For example, a horse might pick up on the fact that you are feeling anxious or scared. They may react by using caution when approaching or appearing more alert than normal. 

As you bond with the horse, you may notice feelings arising that you didn’t realize were present. This can help bring you in touch with your emotions and present an opportunity to process your feelings on-site with a therapist. 

What To Expect During Equine Therapy

If you are new to equine therapy, expect a gentle introduction, usually with a trained therapist present. You may start with some basic interaction with the horse, such as feeding or brushing. Over time, you may take part in more hands-on experiences with the horses, talking with your therapist during or after the session. Equine therapy can be conducted in a group setting or in an individual session.

If you are nervous about interacting with a therapy animal, talk with your treatment team. They can help you assess if equine therapy is right for you. 

Equine Therapy and Eating Disorders

Research suggests that equine therapy, when added to traditional treatment, may help reduce eating disorder symptoms.1 This may be due to the fact that those skills learned during equine therapy can transfer effectively to other situations. For instance, emotional regulation skills gained from time spent with the horses may help you when you are faced with a stressful situation or a particularly challenging meal.

Just as equine therapy can be beneficial for reducing your eating disorder symptoms, it may also help treat co-occurring mental health disorders. After all, those suffering from an eating disorder often live with underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. In fact, eating disorders often develop as a way to cope with these other issues. Integrating equine therapy into your eating disorder treatment may be an effective way to improve your overall mental health. 

Equine therapy can also help boost confidence, which may help target the root cause of your eating disorder. When your eating disorder is helping you cope with feelings of inadequacy, the confidence learned from experiential therapies can help you find value and worth apart from the eating disorder. This is crucial to lasting recovery and wellness. 

Selah House offers a variety of treatment options to help you overcome your eating disorder. From equine therapy, yoga, art therapy, and spiritual support groups, our residential program provides a unique blend of therapeutic experiences in addition to traditional therapy. To get started, contact us at 866-324-8081.


  1. Equine Therapy in the Treatment of Female Eating Disorder (uta.edu)

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