Equine Therapy

What Is equine Therapy?

Horses play an important role in the healing process at Kolob Canyon Residential Treatment Center. Equine (horse) therapy has gained wide acceptance as a powerful way of teaching important life lessons.

Our students are likely to experience some of the following benefits:

Develop Courage

Some of our students are initially afraid of horses. Riding such large animals is different from anything they have experienced before. As they learn to conquer their initial fear and discover how gentle and affectionate the horses are, they also begin to develop a new pattern of challenging old fears and finding the courage to improve from within.

Increased Self-Confidence and Direction

Horsemanship is a new skill for most of our students. They experience the increased confidence that comes from learning how to do something potentially frightening or different. While riding, they learn to be decisive and to provide clear directions to their horse, lessons which often have carryover applications into the rest of their lives.

Improved Communication Skills

Horses are keenly aware of the non-verbal cues of their riders. As our students become more aware of how their nonverbal communication affects the horse and how that horse reacts, they also grow more aware of their non-verbal cues' role in the important relationships in their lives.

Discipline and Positive Focus

Students are involved in the day-to-day tasks of caring for a horse. Many students learn improved self-discipline through performing a task that the horse needs another to do and cannot do on its own. They often find that this process diverts their focus from the negative thought patterns of the past into a more positive, proactive way of dealing with their problems.

Improved Ability to Trust

Our students learn you can develop a relationship and trust something that is bigger than themselves. This is especially important for victims of trauma.


The unconditional acceptance of friendship that an animal can give allows some students to accept themselves for who they are and is often a positive first step in developing normal relationships. As our students feel accepted by a horse, they often come to terms with themselves in a way that allows them to accept themselves.

Respect for Others

Horses only respond positively when the proper respect exists with the student. As our students learn both to earn and give that respect, life lessons of earning and giving respect to family members and friends are an important byproduct.

Students participate with horses at Kolob in the following ways


Daily Horse Chores

Horses need to be fed and watered each day. Their stalls need to be cleaned, and horses need to be groomed. Our students can participate in these daily tasks. This helps them develop deep and caring relationships with the horses. It also allows teens to practice DBT skills that allow them to be mindful and have emotional regulation.


Equine Therapy

Therapists and the Equine Director at Kolob Canyon are trained as Equine Assisted Counselors in Natural Lifemanship, trauma-focused equine-assisted psychotherapy. Equine Therapy at Kolob Canyon is based on the concept of building connections with the horses. Students learn to build connections, trust, and confidence with these incredibly intuitive animals. Horses give a completely honest reflection of what's happening internally with a teen.

Therapists use the relationship between the student and the horse to gather immediate feedback on emotional stability, confidence levels, trust, and team-building. Horses will often mirror a young teen's emotions. Our students quickly recognize themselves in the horses and become very committed to helping the horse and working through their challenges.

This modality of equine therapy helps our students identify unhealthy relationship patterns and then change those patterns. Through the development of relationships with horses, students can practice engaging in new behaviors in a safe environment where immediate feedback is provided to them by the horses. These new, often healthier, behaviors can then be transferred to their human relationships


Horsemanship Classes

In addition to equine therapy, students also receive weekly horsemanship instruction under the direction of our Equine Director. In this skill-based program, students start working with the horses in ground work which includes learning how to care for a horse, how to saddle a horse, and other horsemanship basics.

Students then progress to training a horse in our round pen before advancing to horseback riding instruction. Students learn the basics of horsemanship, such as horse breeding, riding etiquette, genetics, and veterinary needs. Students are able to advance through the horsemanship program at a pace that is comfortable to them while demonstrating their competency in horsemanship skills. When working with horses, safety is never compromised, and our students are never forced to do something against their will.


Horseback Riding Instructions

When students advance to horseback riding, they are taught the English Hunter/Jumper style of horseback riding. Students at Kolob will also have the opportunity to compete in local horseback riding competitions. Our Equine Director will determine when a student is ready to compete. Not every student will be able to participate in every show available.

Family members share in the excitement of equine therapy as they, too, can participate in family equine sessions as determined by their therapist. Parents need to know that our students are never allowed to ride unless declared medically fit to do so by a physician.

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