Equestrian therapy can include more than just riding the horse. The therapist sets goals for the individual during the session that may not involve touching the horse at all. Interactions with the horses can include actions like putting on the halter or leading them to a designated area. To get the most out of the sessions, the individual will try to accomplish each goal the best they can.
Communication occurs between the individual and the horse, as well as the individual and instructor. The individual will talk about their thought process, ideas, and problem-solving they use for each task. Discussing the process allows them to improve their language skills. Listening to the instructor helps them improve following directions and asking questions.
This learned skill is especially helpful for individuals with anxiety. Individuals with anxiety are typically stuck worrying about the past or thinking about a tragic future. So, this exercise pushes an individual to be present and focus on a single task.
Occupational therapists who teach equine-assisted therapies can simply adapt to cognitive behavioral therapy. The therapist can make decisions about the processes and techniques used in each session. The main methods implemented are cognitive behavioral therapy (talk therapy), practicing activities, activity scheduling, and play therapy.