Therapeutic Horseback Riding Helps Women in Substance Abuse Treatment

Crossroads for Women has teamed up with Riding to the Top in a pilot project that combines substance abuse treatment and therapeutic horseback riding.

Therapeutic riding has been shown to help facilitate the confidence, self-esteem and problem solving skills of children and adults with physical, emotional and / or learning disabilities.

The curriculum for the program, which takes place at Riding to the Top’s facility in Windham, Maine, focuses on specific recovery skills such as relating to others in healthy ways, identifying thinking distortions and managing feelings without using drugs or alcohol. While the program is still in its early stages, clients have been able to talk about everything from thinking errors and distortions, safety, body language, boundaries, getting needs met, problem solving, strengths, survival skills and relating to others in healthy ways.

Here are some of the things the women have said so far:

  • “I feel instantly calm when I am near the horses. I have a deep feeling of comfort and relaxation.” (from a woman with severe anxiety)
  • “I was scared of the horses and didn’t think I’d want to get close to them. But, I wanted to tell my daughter that I touched the horse so she’d be proud of me. And I got to tell her that.”
  • “I caught myself excuse-making and catastrophizing. I changed my thinking, and I was able to get on the horse.”
  • “When I was on the horse, I felt proud. I felt myself sitting up taller and relaxing and enjoying the experience.”

The collaboration started in January 2009 and will continue for one year. Participants include clients from Crossroads for Women’s halfway house and Children And Mothers Program (CAMP) – halfway house programs.

Crossroads for Women offers Maine’s most comprehensive treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health issues specialized for women only.

Riding to the Top’s mission is to provide therapeutic riding services to children and adults with physical, cognitive and/or emotional disabilities.