Psychotherapy using horses

Each child has his or her own emotional field that comes to direct contact with the emotional field of the horse during hipotherapy. A question has occurred whether an animal is able to experience emotions as well. Affirmative answer gave rise to animotherapy.

So far it is not absolutely clear with this mechanism can be used purposefully. The original "horseback riding" when the client felt good and was subsequently able to better overcome obstacles in life evolved into a broad range of concepts and approaches of using horses purposefully in treatment of psychological and psychiatric clients.

Psychotherapy with the horse

This special methodology created by Ms. Mehlem (2006) is based on psychoanalytic approaches that it combines with psychosomatic findings. It partially divides horse's influence on human psyche into 2 ranges.

Psychosomatic problems and mental traumas appear only when the possibility for a person to "fly" through his or her life is interrupted. The reason for most diseases is that people try to be somebody else than they really are. There is no better companion who will help you find yourself than a horse. The horse brings back "the here and the now" to the patient and helps him or her find himself or herself right here and right now. The patient feels that he or she is alive – instead of planning or thinking back, he or she is experiencing the present moment. The horse will recognize the person as he or she was before he or she had lost himself or herself. The therapy consists in "accompaniment on the journey" to oneself. And the horse stands at the beginning of this process. It is considered a mirror to the personality. When a client and a horse are in harmony, it is very likely that the person is authentic, being himself or herself. In "the here and the now time", the horse teaches the client to be kind, careful, attentive and to "realize" life.

Another view is suppressing the bioenergy of mental disorders. Horse riding brings both physical and muscle relaxation and disappearance of suppressive mechanisms. The necessity to get accustomed to the movement of the horse brings about activation of all bodily processes along with mental activity that leads to improvement of disease symptoms.

Psychotherapeutic riding according to the French school

They believe that in hiporetabilitation, the horse is not only a positive therapeutic medium, but also a co-therapist. Their teaching is based on a theory of herds and their hierarchy. In a herd, horses respect dominancy (the dominant stallion, man) and at the same time they protect the weak (pregnant mares, foals, handicapped children). Horses have learned to communicate non-verbally with people and – based on the above mentioned ethological findings – they can therefore be fully integrated in the psychological process.

Therapeutic riding based on the psychoanalytic approach of Karl Gustav Jung

According to the psychoanalytic approaches of K. G. Jung, positive feelings during hipotherapy are explained with a desire to live with the horse that is based on archetypal symbolism. As an animal, the horse represents a symbol of power. Hipotherapy is a possibility to enter into an animate communication with this symbol. Peter Lange (1992) states that as symbols, horses can become a bridge between conscious and unconscious mind. "They reflect person's inner nature /natur/ and especially inner conflicts between Ich and Ex /Ego and Id/. They offer various identification and projection possibilities, also for hidden and suppressed emotions." (Klik, 2002).

According to Scheidhacker, for schizophrenics this is about Ego capitulation and deep permanent anxiety. The horse is regarded as an image of a great good mother that carries and supports young men. It gives them wings that they can use "to approach the Sun and gods", just like Pegasus.

Therapeutic riding based on the psychoanalytic approach of Sigmund Freud

Psychiatric treatment facility in Haar investigates hiporehabilitation effects on human psyche from the point of view of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis. It applies his description of personalities Id/Es, Ego/Ich and Superego/Uber to the client, the physiotherapist and the horse. Anxiety and instinctiveness of the patient can be projected to the horse that feels the transmission reaction and reacts with relevant behaviour. Different approach is then applied for different diseases. For example the goal with neuroses with weak Es is greater mobility of the horse with subsequent strengthening of the client's personality. For psychoses where Ich has capitulated, the therapist has to leave his or her Uber role passes his or her Ich to the client etc.

Another approach is using pre-oedipal stigma. Communication with a horse should be similar to early communication between a mother and her child, the patients recall pre-oedipal experiences. Rocking and swaying movements during horseback riding recall memories to the life in the womb.