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Addiction Recovery Skills from Equine Friends

Horses live in the moment, never making demands or bearing grudges for past hurts. And while they do have very different personalities, they always respond with complete honesty. These altruistic equine traits form the foundation for Canyon Crossing Recovery’s horsemanship program, a popular and effective form of experiential therapy. Directed by Amanda Marsh, a lifelong horsewoman, writer, and life coach, the equine program for addiction recovery helps women push “reset” on relationship skills that have not served them well in the past.

As they routinely work with Canyon Crossing horses, clients begin to expose hidden emotions, unrealistic expectations, and poor interpersonal habits that could leave them vulnerable to relapse. At the same time, they learn to construct new relationships that are authentic, realistic, and healthy.

The Discipline of Routine


Recovering clients enrolled in the equine program must care for the horses over a six week period: feeding and watering them, grooming manes and tails, and making sure they receive adequate exercise. Throughout this routine, bonds are formed between caregiver and horse that result in feelings of trust, responsibility, and empowerment. This program is limited to 6 women at a time.

For many women, the chance to spend time with horses is the realization of a lifelong dream. Some enter the horse-caregiver relationship with fantasies that are unrealistic. For others, the need to manage these powerful beasts is intimidating and may bring feelings of fear and inadequacy to the surface. For both groups, acknowledging these feelings reveals hidden emotions that can later be explored in therapy.

Understanding Personal Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

riding horse

The Equine Program is especially effective in helping clients learn to establish boundaries. Old relationships and self-concepts are often at the root of a client’s addiction and dependency, and must be rebuilt from a healthier and more empowered perspective. As they work with the animals, program participants learn to maintain their personal space and acknowledge the space of others. The women find that they can approach the horses safely by asking permission and showing respect for the animal’s space. Likewise, when “pushy” horses cross invisible human boundaries, they must also be reminded to respect that space. Empowered horse caregivers learn to do this with the assuredness of a firm but gentle touch.

For women in recovery from addiction and dependency, the experiences of the Equine Program establish patterns and hone skills for building healthier and more lasting human relationships. To learn more about Canyon Crossing’s addiction treatment for women or to enroll in our experiential therapy programs, contact our team by telephone or secure online inquiry today. We look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful Prescott, AZ facility.

Equine Therapy Photo Gallery

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