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Horses Aid In Addiction Recovery, Boosting Mood And Quality Of Life

New research shows equine therapy as a promising method to combat substance abuse and improve patient well-being.
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Horses could help alcoholics and drug addicts kick their habit, according to new research.

Thoroughbred therapy aids patients by boosting mood and quality of life, scientists said.

Equine clinics are a growing area of interest in the medical literature, with reports interactions with the animals reduce blood pressure, anxiety and stress levels.

Now it has also been shown to be an effective method for combating substance abuse.

Lead author Dr. Kristyna Machova, of the Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague, said: “The positive mood of patients, their motivation and willingness to cooperate could have a fundamental influence on their remaining in a long-term addiction treatment program.”

The findings are based on 57 hospitalized participants, 39 of whom were enrolled in an experimental project called EFPP (Equine Facilitated Psychiatry and Psychology).

After four two hour sessions they scored higher in AQoL (Assessment of Quality of Life) and Health of the Nation Outcome Scales which measure satisfaction than 18 peers who were not enrolled.

In fact, they did around twice as well as what would be expected in a healthy population.

Activities included caring for horses, leading them round on a leash, riding them and working with them in an arena.

Machova said: “A significant difference was observed in favor of the experimental group in the behavioral problems’ subscale, which includes areas such as over-activity, aggressive, disruptive or agitated behavior, intentional self-harm and alcohol or substance abuse problems.

“It was the improvement in the area of alcohol and drug abuse that was the aim of the EFPP program, and it seems to have been achieved in the experimental group.”

Possible reasons may be some of the widely described effects of EFPP in terms of communication, self-confidence, satisfaction from an accomplished goal or an improvement in the quality of life.

Machova said: “In this study similar influences may have affected the positive shift in over-activity, agitation or disruptive behavior. In general the horse is reported to be a motivational force in a treatment.”

The program lasted a year, taking place once a week in seven-week stints with a monthly break in summer to allow horses some rest with 14 days off in winter.

Lessons took place under the guidance of a therapist with the assistance of two horse handlers.

The project led to feelgood emotions of success and harmony, explained Machova.

She said: “Clients were able to gain confidence and acquire new skills in handling such a large animal.

“They had the opportunity to ride on an unsaddled horse wearing a harness with handrails. One client, under supervision, always led the horse while another rode it.

“Therefore, the clients had to perceive their mutual needs and trust each other.”

The research took place on the premises of the Kosmonosy Psychiatric Hospital which has a horse center accredited by the Czech Equine Facilitated Therapy Association.

All patients enrolled in the study were informed of the course before commencement of EFPP and signed a form.

Data collection took place from January 2019 to March 2020.

The research took place on the premises of the Kosmonosy Psychiatric Hospital which has a horse center accredited by the Czech Equine Facilitated Therapy Association. PHOTO BY DORUK YEMENICI/UNSPLASH

Dogs are often used in hospitals, mental health institutes and rehabilitation centers where their presence diminishes feelings of fear, particularly in children.

But there’s an increasing focus on the beneficial effects of horses.

In the UK, they are even being used to break the cycle of offending. A seven step program with young ex-offenders is helping them address trauma and get their life back on track.

Horses are extremely sensitive to human emotions. They can help develop an individual’s empathy, self-control and self-esteem and also improve their communication skills, says Bristol-based Key4Life.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

Edited by Saba Fatima and Newsdesk Manager

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