Healing Power of Horses
About the campaign
Stella McCartney and The Chopra Foundation’s mental health initiative, Never Alone, are celebrating the healing power of horses by raising awareness for how these incredible creatures can support mental hygiene, facilitate healing and boost overall wellbeing through equine therapy and beyond.
A message from Stella
Since as early as I can remember, I’ve felt incredibly safe with horses – whether riding as a child in Scotland with my family or on my own today. The connections I’ve made with these creatures have been among the most important of my entire life.
As with all of us, there have been times when I have felt down, alone, stressed or afraid. Being on my horse always offers a moment of pause, calm and reflection – allowing me to put things into perspective. So often, I just need to be with my horse… Breathing together and feeling so connected.
When I met Deepak Chopra and learned about his work with Never Alone, I knew we had to collaborate and tell the story of the healing power of horses. Exploring how equine therapy can support mental health and so much more, particularly for the next generation – who are truly suffering right now.
It has been a gift to have learned an incredible amount through this process. Here at Stella, we always want to say and do more with fashion. We began by celebrating horses in our Winter 2023 collection, which evolved into how they can heal and help people, and continues with supporting Never Alone and equine therapy centres everywhere.
This has been one of the most meaningful and exciting pieces of work we’ve done and I hope the healing power of horses can help others as it has me, time after time.
Discover the power of equine therapy
What is equine therapy?
“Therapy relies on language. Horses are expert communicators, yet they never rely on language. Everything happens with energy. When my patients connect to horses, they can reconnect with a disavowed part of themselves.” – Andreas Liefooghe, founder of Operation Centaur
Equine therapy, often referred to as equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) or horse therapy, is a form of experiential therapy involving interactions between patients and horses. Its popularity has grown significantly in recent decades. Horses are centred as therapists, responding to their human patients with instincts instead of judgments – creating a safe space to uncover feelings that may be difficult to articulate, or are hidden under the surface.
Equine assisted psychotherapy is the practise of spending regular and constructive time with horses in order to observe responses. Guided by a psychotherapist, people can gain a deeper and more reflective understanding of themselves, their situation and their relationship to others.
Equine therapy is grounded in both experiential and biological interactions, and presents a valuable therapeutic option for numerous conditions. While more extensive research and larger sample sizes are needed to solidify its standing in the therapeutic community, current studies underscore its value and potential to enhance both mental and physical wellbeing.
“Horses taught me to accept help from others, to work on trust and to not be so quick to turn to anger.” – Simon, 33
Is equine therapy effective?
EAP is particularly good at moving people on from where they feel blocked or stuck. It enables people to work through their issues without solely needing to rely on language.
Research by London-based equine therapy clinic Operation Centaur shows that their clients were eight times more confident in their own value after therapy, four times more persistent in setting their boundaries and five times more likely to believe in their ability to get things done.
Equine-assisted psychotherapy increased levels of confidence in 92% of Operation Centaur patients, with 86% of patients reporting they are more open to new perspectives – one of the fundamental aspects of healthy relationships. An additional 77% also say they were more open to emotions and new challenges.
The effectiveness of equine therapy hinges on several factors:
– Biological interaction: Physically, the rhythmic motion of riding a horse can be therapeutic. This is especially true for individuals with physical disabilities, as the horse’s gait offers a unique movement pattern, promoting balance, and coordination.
– Emotional and psychological connection: Interacting with horses has been shown to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and decrease stress levels. Horses are intuitive animals that can mirror human emotions, providing an opportunity for introspection and understanding.
– Socio-environmental engagement: The outdoor setting, combined with group interactions in many equine therapy programs, offers a relaxed environment that can be socially enriching.
Participants in equine assisted psychotherapy can expect to expedite their progress through whatever challenge they are facing. When progress with other therapeutic methods has plateaued, or where a person is feeling stuck and the path forward is unclear, working with horses may create the breakthrough that is required for further advancement. The shift in perspective from our own experience to the experience that the horse has of us opens up a world of unexplored opportunities for self-development.
Mental health studies related to equine therapy indicate very promising efficacy rates:
- In a study on equine therapy for veterans with PTSD, approximately 80% of participants reported significant reductions in symptoms.
- Adolescents with depression and anxiety showed a 60% improvement in symptoms after participating in a 12-week equine therapy program.
- Over 70% of children with autism spectrum disorders exhibited improved social interaction and communication skills after a series of equine therapy sessions.
“The horse was crowding me; he was standing so close I felt I had no space. The team asked me what I could do. I said ‘nothing’. When they said, ‘Why not try pushing back?’, I thought they were mad. He weighs more than a tonne. But I pushed and he did move; I burst into tears. I never realised I could have my space so easily if I decided that’s what I wanted.” Mandy, 43.
What can equine therapy treat?
Equine therapy can include the caring for, riding, training, observing and interacting with horses to support a variety of mental health conditions – from alcoholism and addiction to depression and disordered eating.
Research has shown that equine therapy can be beneficial for a variety of conditions:
- Mental health disorders: Equine therapy has been employed in treating depression, anxiety, PTSD and other psychological conditions. It offers a non-judgmental environment where patients can express themselves freely and develop coping mechanisms.
- Developmental disorders: Children and adults with autism, ADHD and other developmental disorders have shown improvements in concentration, patience and communication after engaging in equine therapy.
- Physical disabilities: As mentioned earlier, the act of riding can help with balance and coordination. Individuals with conditions like cerebral palsy or those recovering from accidents have reported physical improvements from the therapy.
- Substance abuse and addiction: By fostering responsibility, discipline and self-reflection, equine therapy has emerged as an adjunctive treatment for addiction recovery.
What are the benefits of equine therapy?
The benefits of equine therapy go beyond addressing specific conditions, they encompass systemic improvements in quality of life.
Overall, participants have reported:
- Enhanced self-esteem and confidence: Accomplishing tasks, such as riding or taking care of a horse, boosts self-worth.
- Improved interpersonal skills: Working with horses often requires teamwork, which can improve communication and collaboration skills.
- Mindfulness and presence: Engaging with these majestic creatures encourages individuals to remain present, focussing on the current moment, which is a key component of many mindfulness practices.
Andreas Liefooghe, founder of Operation Centaur
Equine therapy directory
This is my story
“The horse was crowding me, he was standing so close I felt I had no space. The team asked me what I could do. I said ‘nothing.’ When they said, “why not try pushing back?” I thought they were mad. He weighs more than a ton. But I pushed and he did move. I burst into tears. I never realised I could have my space so easily if I decided that’s what I wanted.”
“Horses taught me to accept help from other, to work on trust and not be so quick to turn to anger.”
“My horse got quite close to me and was in my space. He trod on my foot. I felt a bit like he was doing what he wanted. I felt over powered – trodden on. It reminds me of my relationships with people. I don’t always stand up for myself. Equine therapy showed me how to set boundaries and look after myself.”
Meditation by Deepak Chopra
Limited-edition Falabella bag
Be the first to discover our limited-edition Healing Power of Horses Falabella tote, with only 96 created globally – giving a second life to deadstock and featuring original poetry by Cleo Wade. A portion of proceeds will support The Chopra Foundation.