What are the Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy?
Interacting with animals can have social, physical and emotional benefits, whether this means spending time with a pet or doing activities alongside animals, such as horse riding.
There has been a rising interest in animal and pet therapy in recent years as more people have started experiencing its positive effects and more research is done into the area.
Horses make wonderful therapy animals – when on one of our accessible holidays in Devon, you have the opportunity to get to know our lovely horses, with the chance to ride them, ride in a carriage and interact with these gentle creatures during your stay!
You can find out more about the benefits of horse riding for people with disabilities in our guide.
What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?
Animals have been helping people for centuries, assisting us on farms and providing companionship. They can also help people with mental and physical disabilities as a form of therapy.
Stroking animals and spending time with them has been found to help temper feelings of anxiety and lower blood pressure, among many other benefits, making it a wonderful tool alongside other forms of mental and physical therapies.
Many find that animals accept you without question and are willing to show affection no matter who you are. Therefore, they can offer some relief for people who are worried about being judged or rejected in some way.
The kind of animals used for therapeutic purposes may depend on the individual seeking animal-assisted therapy and their disability. Common therapy animals include:
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we’ve seen some of the benefits interacting with horses can have first-hand, so understand how rewarding it can be for people of all abilities to spend time with animals.
Discover some of the top benefits of animal-assisted therapy.
Animal Therapy can Improve Your Mood
Interacting with animals can be a great mood-booster for anyone – there’s nothing better than a dog showering you with some love!
The simple act of stroking an animal can prompt your brain to release mood-boosting hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, helping to improve your overall mood and make you feel more relaxed.
Animal Therapy can Support Mental Health
As well as improving general mood, animal therapy can be beneficial for a range of mental health conditions and disorders.
The comforting power of animals means interacting with them can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. People have also reported a reduction in feelings of boredom and loneliness when accompanied by a furry or feathery (or even scaly) friend.
Animals can also provide an escape from negative emotions and decrease perceptions of pain.
Thanks to these benefits, this therapeutic practice can be beneficial for people with:
Animal Therapy can Support Physical Health
Taking care of a pet, meeting a therapy animal or participating in animal-based activities can encourage you to exercise and move in new ways. While doing so, you’ll likely also be spending more time outdoors, which comes with a whole host of mental and physical benefits of its own!
As you pet or play with an animal and learn the best ways to interact with them, you can improve motor skills and coordination too.
Being in the presence of an animal can also make you feel more motivated to do activities that support movement and exercise, boosting physical well-being and encouraging you to try new things.
Animal Therapy can Improve Social & Communication Skills
In many cases, animal therapy opens the door to social interactions, as you can bond with other pet owners or the other people taking part in things like horse riding sessions.
Building a bond with animals can also create a feeling of social support, helping people feel like they are not alone. This too can support the development of social support skills that can translate into other areas of their life.
As animals can’t talk and tell you what they want, finding new ways to communicate and interpret their actions is often necessary. This means developing new communication skills or learning what their behaviours might mean.
Animal Therapy can Boost Self-Esteem
As already mentioned, animals won’t judge you and will accept everyone who treats them kindly.
This can help boost self-esteem for people who are worried about not being able to accomplish certain things or not being ‘good enough’ – a therapy animal will love spending time with you no matter what!
Accessible Horse Riding & Stable Activities at Calvert Exmoor
Getting to know our friendly horses and ponies here at Calvert Exmoor is a great way to reap the benefits of animal-assisted therapy.
Some of the horse-based activities our guests can take part in include:
- Horse riding
- Playing games to improve riding confidence
- Riding in a horse-drawn carriage for wheelchair users, those who can’t mount a horse or those who cannot ride safely due to a weight limit
- Meeting and stroking the different horses for an exciting sensory experience
- Learning about horse behaviour and how to communicate with them
- Grooming, tacking up and mucking out
- Pony agility sessions to guide ponies around obstacles
These activities are run by our expert members of stable staff, who will ensure that people of all abilities feel safe and comfortable when interacting with the horses.
Horses are gentle and incredibly intelligent, and our horses are just as professional as the rest of our team, so you can be sure they’ll help you have the best experience possible!
If horse-riding or any of our other inclusive adventure activities sounds like something you or someone you know would love, why not take this opportunity to book an accessible holiday with us at Calvert Exmoor?
To discuss your trip, please get in touch with our team.