Equine Assisted Therapy

Equine Assisted Therapy; therapy with horses; therapy for kids with autism; autism spectrum disorder; kids with adhd; attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder

Equine Assisted Therapy (EAP) is an emerging and increasingly popular trauma-informed intervention and powerful tool which focuses on the connection between humans and the horse to bring about emotional healing.


What is Equine Assisted Therapy?


Equine assisted therapy involves activities completed in the presence of a horse, including mounted activities, therapeutic horseback riding as well as non-mounted, equine-focused activities such as grooming and caring for the horse. Horses are beautiful creatures which have the ability to help teach emotional regulation skills, confidence as well as focus.

Spending time with horses can be incredibly helpful and therapeutic for kids with Autism and Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder.

Therapy inside a barn provides an opportunity for therapist and client to work side by side and opens up space for young clients to explore their emotions and to talk about their everyday challenges.

Compared to a traditional sit-down in-office counselling session that can feel rather intense for young clients, grooming and petting a horse can be much more calming and enjoyable experience.

How Horses Help


Horses have a beautiful way of capturing children’s attention. They provide immediate feedback in a non-judgmental way and this has the powerful impact of helping individuals focus on the present, in the here and now. This in turn forces these individuals to attend to the sensory messages that are being shared with them in a non-verbal way.

Horses can help humans to regulate their emotions as horses are herd animals and are incredibly attuned to humans and their emotions. Horses provide emotional safety in a way that is not possible with human beings.

Horses are also very intelligent animals. And believe it or not, they can detect a person’s heartbeat from four feet away!

When grooming or petting a horse, folks with ADHD are forced to be very mindful and gentle about what they are doing, as sudden movements would create panic in most horses. They are forced to slow their movements, and be quite purposeful and intentional about what they do.

Horses provide a powerful tool in their ability to reflect human emotions to teach children and adolescents to become more aware of their own feelings and reactions, and to work through emotions in positive ways.

Equine assisted therapy has been proven to be especially helpful for children with Autism and ADHD. The calming and gentle nature of horses helps these children learn to regulate their emotions and their impulsivity.

Research on equine-assisted therapy in helping kids with Autism and ADHD regulate their emotions, help them focus and slow down.

Benefits of Equine Assisted Therapy


Emotion Regulation: Children with Autism often have difficulty regulating emotions. Research has shown that interactions with horses increase the production of oxytoxin, the “feel good” hormone that builds up empathy, thereby helping with social interactions and bonding. Additionally, it lowers blood pressure and decreases the production of cortisol, the “stress” hormone.

Equine Assisted Therapy can help to

  • improve mood and well-being
  • increase social skills and cognition
  • increase empathy
  • control impulses
  • improve self esteem and confidence
  • decrease irritability and hyperactivity


Impulse Control: Children and teens who struggle with impulse control can benefit tremendously from Equine Assisted Therapy. By being mindful and purposeful while interacting with a horse, individuals will experience slower breathing which in turns slows down heart rate and brain activity.

The need to communicate with horses calmly and non-reactively promotes the skills of emotional awareness, emotion regulation, self-control, and impulse modulation.

This leads to

  • reduction in irritability, agitation, and impulsivity
  • increases cooperation, emotional regulation
  • improves their capacity for delay, and behavioural control.


In Canada, the Canucks Autism Network has many programs for kids on the Autism Spectrum, and their families, as well as promoting acceptance and inclusion in the community. Innova Therapy is registered with BC’s Autism Funding for direct billing.


Meet our Equine Assisted Therapist


Registered Clinical Counsellor who works with Autism kids with equine-assisted therapy. Couples and family therapist. Canuck Autism Network. Autism Funding BC. Adoptive Families Association of BC; Adoption Centre of BC; Ministry of Children and Family Development; MCFD

Andrea Pastoor, RCC | Innova Therapy Maple Ridge & Online


Andrea works with her Equine-Assisted Therapy clients out of the A&T Equestrian farm in Surrey.


Book an appointment with Andrea now.