On-Campus Horse Therapy Program

Equine therapy is the guided practice of working through cognitive and behavioral principles by interacting with horses in a treatment setting. It is known as an experiential therapy because it allows patients to physically participate in an activity as they process and actualize what they are learning. Equine therapy at The Meadows Ranch has two components: psychotherapy, which involves “groundwork” interactions with horses, and therapeutic riding, which is designed to empower the mind-body connection. 

How Does Equine Therapy Contribute to Eating Disorder Treatment?

Eating disorders involve an intricate web of psychological beliefs and physical coping behaviors. They are often associated with high social sensitivity and poor self-perception, and they can be complicated by the presence of other mental health conditions. Eating disorders may also manifest from subconscious impulses to cope with trauma in one’s childhood or background, so processing trauma is a key element of fostering recovery from these conditions.

Elaine Coller works with her horses at Meadows Ranch

Equine therapy is an excellent fit for eating disorder treatment because horses are very intuitive creatures. They mirror human behavior, allowing patients the chance to observe their own attitudes and behaviors as they notice the responses of the horses. 

“You can’t hold a facade or a boundary with them, they will see right behind that,” says Elaine Coller, Director of Equine at The Meadows Ranch. “They really bring in what is really truly there. …They teach you how to have those boundaries that we sometimes forget we have or that we need. They get to be themselves and we get to learn from them and learn about ourselves.”

In addition to facilitating trauma resolution, equine therapy offers the opportunity for patients to form authentic connections — not just with horses, but also with peers and staff. And like other experiential therapies, it allows patients to apply new knowledge in a safe environment. As they interact with horses, patients have time to work through and process what they are absorbing in their treatment sessions. 

Elaine Coller


My favorite thing is to see the interaction of everybody working with the horses. I really enjoy watching [the patients’] growth, how the horses respond, and the connections and relationships that are built within that time that everybody is there working with them.”

Elaine Coller
DIRECTOR OF EQUINE

Equine Therapy at The Meadows Ranch

At The Meadows Ranch, our horses are on site, and patients have the opportunity to ride them each week, which is unique among equine therapy programs. Our skilled staff focus on the parallels between the horses and the individuals, teaching patients how to care for the horses as they learn how to care for themselves. 

Once they are cleared to participate by the medical department, patients at The Meadows Ranch will generally have two sessions of equine therapy per week, one focused on psychotherapy and the other focused on riding. Previous riding experience is not required, though groundwork is necessary before a patient is able to ride. Patients will spend time getting to know the horses and staff first, establishing comfort and familiarity prior to the riding experience. 

Psychotherapy and groundwork sessions are often group experiences, encouraging peer connection and collaboration. Because horses are sensitive and nonverbal, patients can learn a great deal about their own social behaviors, beliefs, and patterns that provide unique moments of insight and perspective. Mindfulness practices are woven in, and riding especially gives patients a chance to renew a positive connection between their minds and bodies.

“My favorite thing is to see the interaction of everybody working with the horses,” Coller says. “I really enjoy watching [the patients’] growth, how the horses respond, and the connections and relationships that are built within that time that everybody is there working with them.” 

Treatment for Eating Disorders at The Meadows Ranch

If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, please get in touch with our team today. Our experienced staff is ready to answer your questions about our research-backed program, which includes a mix of individual, group, and experiential therapies alongside family involvement. Equine therapy is a unique, powerful piece of our holistic approach to eating disorder treatment, which is focused on healing the whole person for the best chance at long-term recovery. Contact us today to learn more. We would love to speak with you!

Call 866-390-5100
Equine Therapy