Animal therapy works.
People who participated in mental health and addictions treatment programs involving horses reported therapeutic benefits.
The pilot study was conducted by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina.
Colleen Dell, Research Chair in One Health and Wellness at the U of S, says four treatment sites took part.
Two focused on therapeutic horsemanship, one involved self-development through interactions with horses and another included a psychotherapist, a licensed therapist and a horse professional with the client.
Dell explains there is a strong human-animal bond, and sometimes it’s quicker to get to that place of trust, where a service worker can get to the crux of the issue.
For that matter, a family pet can be a strong support for someone having difficulties.
The next step for the research is a larger scale study to better understand what a therapy animal can do and how they can help.
That includes more work on connecting Indigenous people with their culture in their healing process, because the horse and First Nations culture are historically linked.
Dell says from an Indigenous world view and understanding, the animal is as important as the land and the person, and we are all connected.
One of the four groups in the pilot study employed these beliefs with the help of elders explaining the culture and being with horses and learning the history, which Dell says was incredibly powerful.