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Horse therapy helping at-risk youth in Australia

By Lucie Bell

Research published in the journal Youth Studies Australia suggests that equine therapy is an effective way to help young people who are troubled or at-risk.

Catherine Waite, from the Rural Health Academic Centre at the University of Melbourne, spoke to 40 young people over 12 months.

"We interviewed people who are 14 to18 years old," Ms Waite said.

"They talked about the therapy in terms of being very physically intimidating in the beginning, because it's a large horse and it's encouraged to run around the yard.

"Part of the therapy is that the participants are taught how to calm the horse down... and get the horse to come to them.

Equine therapy can have amazing effect on children

"They talked about that process as being very calming and trusting. It makes them feel positive."

Ms Waite says the focus on body language, as opposed to verbally communicating, made this form of therapy particularly successful.

"Some of the young people had been in other types of therapies, they had psychologists, and they talked about it in terms of there being a pressure to respond and pressure to self analyse.

"Just to be involved in an affirming experience where you don't have to talk, it's just between you and the horse, that's a valued aspect that came through in the interviews with both the young people and adults."

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