In the fast-paced world we live in, many teen boys struggle to find their way. This loss of direction and purpose can cause teenage boys to act out and trouble their concerned parents. As parents struggle to help their troubled teens, a new type of therapy has emerged — equine-assisted therapy.
What Is Equine-Assisted Therapy?
Equine-assisted therapy takes place on a ranch, which is a completely alien environment for most troubled teens as many come from urban or suburban areas. In this new, therapeutic environment, a troubled teen will not have the same defenses against therapy that other therapeutic environments may evoke. A key part of this is due to the part horses play in the troubled teens’ therapeutic process.
Generally, when a troubled teen enters an equine-assisted therapeutic program, they choose the horse which will be their therapeutic partner. The teen will learn to fulfill the horse’s needs, from feeding, grooming, exercise, and more. As the relationship between horse and teen progresses, more opportunities to train with the horse will be given to the teen.
This process plays a key part in the troubled teen boy’s therapeutic healing. By learning how to bond and work with his chosen horse, the teen boy can learn invaluable lessons in empathy, patience, hard work, and more lessons that he was previously resistant to learn.
Why Horses Are Ideal Therapy Animals For Troubled Teen Boys
Horses are incredibly emotional animals and are sensitive to their handler’s emotions. They can be very stubborn and must be persuaded to train and work with their handler. These characteristics are ideal for working with troubled teen boys.
For instance, say a troubled teen boy enters an equine-assisted therapeutic program with anger management and defiance issues. The horse he chooses to work with will sense the anger but not be able to understand that it may or may not be directed at it. This will make the horse nervous and difficult to work with and help the troubled boy learn that he has to master his anger issues if he wants his horse to respond properly. Also, as horses can be incredibly recalcitrant, the boy can clearly visualize how his own defiance issues have impacted the people in his life as he works with his chosen horse.
Along with the direct learning opportunities working with a horse provides, troubled teen boys will not have the same resistance against equine therapy that may be present during traditional therapy. Horses can be excellent listeners and teen boys can more easily face difficult emotions with therapeutic equines rather than with other people who they fear may judge them.
Common Issues Addressed By Equine Therapy
Every family has different dynamics which contributes to every troubled teen boy having different struggles. However the teen boy developed his issues, there are some common issues which can be best addressed by equine therapy.
- Anger management
- Depression/Suicidal ideation
- Poor academic performance
- Family relationship deterioration
- Motivation loss
- Poor communication
- Substance abuse/Addictive behaviors
- Mood disorders
Equine-assisted programs are structured in a way to help troubled teen boys actively work through these issues in an engaging and therapeutic setting. Along with the boys’ activities involving the horses, the troubled teens in equine-assisted therapy will receive help to address these issues directly.
Typical Activities While In Equine Therapy
Each equine-assisted therapeutic program is different and exact regulations will depend on the state the program is located in. However, there are some typical activities which hold true across most equine therapy programs.
- Equine therapy – When working with the therapeutic horses, the teen boys will learn to build positive confidence, overcome their fears, learn to develop healthy bonds, and more while being overseen by trained therapeutic equine handlers. The frequency of the teen’s interaction with the horse will be dependant on the program, but most equine-assisted programs have the teens work with the horses multiple times a week.
- Equine care – Independent of the focused equine therapy, troubled teen boys will work to care for their chosen horses. These care activities can range from feeding to mucking out stalls. Boys will learn how rewarding their hard work can be as they care for the equine companions.
- Academic growth – Academics will not be neglected while troubled teens receive therapeutic help. As many troubled boys have had their academics poorly impacted before entering an equine-assisted therapeutic program, these programs have licensed teachers and assistants to help boys catch up with their peers.
- Traditional therapeutic methods – Along with the experiential equine-therapy, many equine therapy programs have a mix of traditional therapeutic methods mixed in to help troubled boys process what they are learning. Group therapy, individual therapy, and family therapy are generally present in any equine-assisted therapeutic programs.
For some examples of equine-assisted therapeutic programs, see our list below. It is in no particular order:
- Discovery Ranch in Utah
- Triangle Cross Ranch in Wyoming
- BlueFire Wilderness Therapy in Idaho
Determining If Your Troubled Teen Boy Will Benefit From Equine Therapy
Whether or not equine-assisted therapy is the right course of action for your son is highly dependent on his personal struggles. There are many troubled teen treatment options and it can be difficult to know which would best help your troubled boy become the successful man he was meant to be.
Here at Help Your Teen Now, we have made it our mission to help families heal and come together again. You can contact us and we will discuss your son’s best treatment options, all completely free of charge. So, feel free to reach out and start the process of helping your troubled son finally move forward in a positive direction.