Equine Therapy for Teens

Equine therapy for teens is becoming a popular way to help struggling teens. Troubled teens often respond well to equine therapy for teens as they connect with horses as part of their therapy program. This article offers tips on finding equine therapy for teens.


Equine therapy for teens, also called equine-assisted therapy, refers to programs in which horses and troubled people, often teens, are brought together in a therapeutic setting. Equine therapy for teens is not just one thing: it is offered at the facilities known as therapeutic boarding schools, residential treatment centers, transitional independent living programs, small residential programs, young adult programs, wilderness programs, and outdoor therapeutic programs.

Programs are available for boys only, girls only, or coeducational. Some only accept students over a four-year age range. Though there are many equine therapy centers for teens in Utah, they can be found in all the Pacific Coast states, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, Massachusetts, and Maine.

The equine therapy for teens can involve teenagers with horses in many ways, including horseback riding, horse care including general care as well as helping with sick or inured horses, introduction to training horses, horse shoeing, and assistance with birthing foals. Learning can extend to other ranch chores, including fence repair and mending, crop irrigation, and any needed work on building and land. Equine therapy can be offered as a primary therapy focus or in tandem with other therapies, for example, individual and group psychotherapy, family therapy, and/or Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, for example.

When equine therapy for teens is a mainstay of the program, residents will be on and around horses a good deal of the time. There are, however, programs that advertise the use of equine therapy and mean something quite different, for example, once a week riding lesson. Obviously, these extremely different programs have different purposes and results.

Equine therapy is used for teens who are having difficulties in a variety of different areas. These include:

  • eating disorders, such as
  • substance abuse, including alcohol and drug abuse
  • post traumatic stress disorder
  • attachment issues
  • oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder
  • learning differences, such as asperger, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • anxiety
  • anger and aggression
  • sexual abuse
  • adoption issues
  • family conflict
  • low self-esteem, entitlement, manipulation, isolation, negative peer relationships, and school failure
  • grief and loss, hopelessness

When considering equine therapy for teens, make sure that they accept clients with the issues that your child has. Equine therapy programs for teens may decline to treat young people who are pregnant, suicidal, have a history of running away, have a history of violence directed at themselves or others, or have a severe psychosis.

 You should also make sure that the facility is accredited and licensed - both for its therapy and for any schooling that it offers. Find out what kind of success rate it has, and how much freedom residents have. Using a website like natsap.org (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs) to help your search.



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