Equine Activity Offerings at Oxford
Humans and horses have long had a strong bond. But there are many more ways our 4-legged companions can help us than we previously realized. In fact, research suggests that they can even help someone struggling with addiction.1
In conjunction with conventional, evidence-based therapy methods, the use of therapeutic equine activities shows promise in helping people recover from substance use disorders (SUDs).1
What Is Animal-Assisted Therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) refers to the involvement of animals (e.g., dogs, cats, birds, horses) in a therapeutic setting to benefit a person’s overall health and well-being.2,3
How Can Horses Help My Recovery?
The National Institute on Drug Use suggests that effective treatment for substance use disorder, address multiple needs of an individual, not just drug abuse. They also suggest that staying in treatment and longer durations of treatment are associated with better outcomes.5
Several studies have suggested that incorporating horses into addiction rehabilitation—called equine therapy or horse-assisted therapy (HAT)—may benefit patients in treatment for addiction may benefit patients in treatment for addiction by not only bolstering a treatment approach that meets a person’s unique needs but also by potentially increasing the chances that a patient remains in treatment. One study published in Addiction Science and Clinical Practice found young adults who participated in HAT were more likely to complete addiction treatment than their peers who did not participate.6
A smaller study on equine therapy in SUD treatment by the same researchers found that HAT was useful in helping participants construct a positive image of self (i.e., productive and responsible). The same study found that patients expressed enthusiasm for their time with the horses and that participation in HAT may increase their motivation for remaining in treatment.1
Similar psychosocial benefits, including improved sense of self and increased feelings of freedom and independence, have been noted in several studies where HAT was used in the context of mental health disorders. For example, a study of patients suffering from psychiatric illness who participated in a 10-week HAT program formed deep bonds with the horses they worked with and gained an increased sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem through overcoming their initial fear and learning basic horsemanship skills.7,8
These studies suggest that while activities involving horses may seem purely recreational from the outside, they may have real therapeutic benefits for some patients.
Oxford’s Equine Approach
Oxford Treatment Center provides an equine activity program with therapeutic benefits for residential patients and people in the Oxford Resolutions outpatient clinic.
Led by Dr. Katie Holtcamp, who holds a Ph.D. in Animal Physiology, patients in this program learn valuable life skills like team-building, leadership development, pattern recognition, and behavioral insight. These skills help patients develop healthier behaviors and thought patterns when encountering the triggers that may otherwise lead them to drink or use drugs. Additionally, they will also learn horseback riding, horsemanship, and equine science.
The equine activity program has 10 active horses residing in separate stalls. Sessions are conducted in a large indoor arena, which allows patients to work with the horses before riding around the campus and trails in the surrounding hills. The equestrian center also has a second level that holds a meeting room, residential suites for campus visitors, a balcony deck, and a covered picnic area.
Patients often find comfort in the connection with these majestic animals, building their confidence while forming trust and a bond with the horses. The program begins with basic skills such as caring for the horse, learning to observe behaviors, and giving commands before progressing to horseback riding.
Treatment at Oxford Treatment Center
Equine activity is just one of many therapies offered at Oxford Treatment Center. The bulk of treatment at Oxford involves evidence-based approaches such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- Group therapy.
- Family therapy.
- Medication-assisted treatment.
These core therapies are supplemented not only by equine therapy but also:
- Art therapy. Art therapy specialists provide guidance to patients as they work with many different artistic mediums, helping them express emotions that they may have difficulty putting into words.
- Music therapy. Much like art, music allows people to express themselves through another medium, communicating and working through trauma under the supervision and guidance of a licensed therapist.
- Yoga and mindfulness. Much more than just exercise, yoga is a calming, meditative experience that helps one center themselves and clear the mind. Led by certified yoga and mindfulness instructors, this experience allows patients to relax and recharge after a long day of treatment.
Inpatient guests also enjoy many other amenities, such as the fitness center, chef-prepared, balanced meals, volleyball and basketball courts, and a private lake.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please consider reaching out to an admissions navigator at . They can answer your questions about the facility and programs offered at Oxford Treatment Center, as well as help direct you through the process of approval for insurance coverage.