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06 February 2020

Equine assisted therapy.

It’s no secret that being around animals can make us feel happier. But did you know it can also make us healthier by improving our mood and overall wellbeing?

In fact, scientists have discovered a range of treatments involving activities with horses called equine assisted therapy (EAT). It’s a relatively new treatment that can make a big difference in the wellbeing of some children and adults with special needs.

Today, we will take a closer look at equine assisted therapy, how it may help some people with a disability and how you might be able to access funds for this type of therapy using your NDIS Plan.

What is equine assisted therapy?

Equine assisted therapy includes a range of treatments that involve activities with horses that can improve physical, emotional and social wellbeing in those living life with a disability. Just being around horses and stroking them can reduce stress and anxiety levels and increase a sense of wellbeing.

Why are horses used and not other animals?

Horses have been found to act similarly to humans in their social and responsive behaviour so it’s easy for the rider to connect with the horse as they mirror the rider’s emotions.

Who can equine assisted therapy help?

Equine assisted therapy is suitable for people of any age and may be able to assist people with a range of disabilities including:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Spina bifida
  • Movement dysfunction
  • Developmental delay
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment

What are the main types of equine assisted therapy?

1. Therapeutic horseback riding (Riding for the Disabled)

Usually taught by a qualified riding instructor, therapeutic horseback riding is used to improve coordination, balance, posture, muscle tone, confidence, and wellbeing in a person with a disability. For more, see our previous post Riding for the Disabled: How can it help? 

2. Hippotherapy

Similar to therapeutic horseback riding, hippotherapy usually also involves an occupational therapist, physiotherapist, or a speech and language therapist (a bit like physiotherapy but on horseback).

3. Equine assisted learning

Some people may be afraid to ride horses, so equine assisted learning helps participants gain confidence by teaching them how to groom and feed the horses. This often helps participants to discover how non verbal communication might affect interactions with other people in their lives.

4. Equine assisted psychotherapy

Mental health professionals use the horses to help participants learn about themselves and discuss feelings, patterns and behaviors. The goal of this type of therapy is to help in social, emotional, cognitive and behavioral ways.

What are some of the benefits of equine assisted therapy?

Equine assisted therapy can help some people with their cognitive, physical, emotional and social well being including:

Cognitive benefits:

  • Attention span
  • Concentration
  • Motor planning
  • Tactile awareness
  • Sensory integration.

Physical benefits:

  • Muscle tone
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Posture
  • Balance
  • Range of motion
  • Coordination.

Emotional and social benefits:

  • Self esteem
  • Self confidence
  • Self reliance
  • Judgement.

Is equine assisted therapy covered by the NDIS?

To obtain NDIS funding for equine assisted therapy, it will need to pass the “reasonable and necessary” test. This means the request must be related to your disability, it must be good value for money and likely to be of benefit to you.

It is important that your request for funding is connected to one of your NDIS goals. Clearly setting your goals and identifying how you would like to achieve them before your NDIS Plan or Plan Review meeting will help ensure you receive the funding you need.

Example goal 1

To meet new people and improve my communication skills.

How equine assisted therapy might help:

I would meet people I have not met before, make new friends and learn to follow instructions about how to ride a horse.

In this case, funding is likely to come from your Core supports budget.

Example goal 2

To improve coordination and strength so that I can be more independent.

How equine assisted therapy could help:

The exercise of riding a horse will help strengthen my muscles, improving my ability to control my arms and hands and hopefully do more things for myself.

In this case, funding is likely to come from the Capacity Building budget. It may be helpful to have a letter of support from a physiotherapist or occupational therapist to say Riding for the Disabled is likely to assist you achieve your goal.

Leap in! can help.

If you think equine assisted therapy might work for you, be sure to plan ahead for your NDIS meeting. Our free app can help you record your goals and be prepared.

Find out more about the app, by reading our previous post Take control of your NDIS with the new Leap in! web app or give the Leap in! Crew a call on 1300 05 78 78.

Further reading.

ADHD and NDIS eligibility: Your questions answered.

Equine facilitated learning.

Riding for the Disabled: How can it help.