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Updated: Mar 17, 2023

More and more people with disorders or disabilities are turning to an unusual method called EQUITHERAPY. At Laboa we went to meet Aurélie Esnault, an equitherapist at the Vallon Juigné Equestrian Center in Sarthe, region of France, who told us a little more about her job.

Come and discover his interview in the following video 😉

For those who don't know about the equitherapy or for those who are interested, I invite you to read the rest of our interview with Aurélie, below 👇

What is Equitherapy?

Equitherapy is a therapeutic care activity. You do not come to do equitherapy to learn to ride a horse, but because you are in a process of care with the idea to come out with a "better being".

Equitherapy is aimed at a very varied population: children, adults, elderly people, with or without great mobility and without necessarily any knowledge as riders. You can even be a little afraid of horses and still come to do equitherapy!

"In most cases, the people who come to ask for help from equitherapy are looking for something they haven't tried before and change from the regular therapies where they are locked in a room. It can also simply be the doctor, the speech therapist or the psychomotricist who will refer them to equitherapy. Or it can also be because people have heard about equitherapy, they have watched a report or their child has already experienced regular horseback riding but because of a pathology or something else, group classes are too complicated for them and it requires more individualized support."

!!!📣 Warning 📣 !!!

This method of care is complementary to all other medical treatments, but it does not replace them in any way!

"The goal is to put words on what the equitherapist can observe about the horse's behavior and the patient's behavior. These observations will allow the equitherapist to give feedback to the patient in order to help him better understand how he interacts at work, at school, or at home, ..." explains Aurélie.

What are the benefits of equitherapy?

The benefits are very broad. They also depend on why does the person come? "The equitherapists take into consideration their patient in their physical and psychological entity, they act on the body and on the psychic.

It is a triangular relationship between the patient, the horse and the therapist."

Who is Aurélie Esnault ?

Aurélie trained with the SFE (Société Française d'Équithérapie), after having worked for more than 15 years in special education for children with disabilities.

She has been practicing equitherapy at the Vallon Juigné equestrian center, in the Sarthe region of France, for 3 years now. Aurélie takes care of people who have real difficulties, whether they are psychological or physical (eating disorders, addictions, school phobia, autism, bipolarity, stroke, ...). She has been riding horses since she was a little girl and holds the Galop 6, the compulsory equestrian level to get the diploma.

!!!📣 Warning📣 !!!

Aurélie only does equitherapy sessions and not riding lessons!

Can equitherapy be practiced in a group?

"Of course! For group sessions, I can be solicited by IMEs (Institut Médicoéducatif) or homes for adults, by the EPSM (Établissement de Santé Mentale) who will set up equitherapy for their residents."

With what type of horses?

"To practice equitherapy, you need specific horses, of different sizes, small horses as well as horses that are more physically load-bearing. Then, it's the horse's temperament that we're going to base ourselves on: calm, non-brutal, gentle with humans, so that the relationship goes well with the patient."

Is equitherapy more oriented to improve psychic difficulties than physical ones (motor handicap)?

No, equitherapy is indicated in all cases, as soon as the person concerned is in a care process. People can come after a stroke for the rehabilitation of an arm for example, to regain mobility. At the same time, the equitherapist will also be able to talk with the patient about the accident or his personal life. "There is this first objective which is: why the patient comes to see us! And what's behind it, what we're going to discover, ..."

How was equitherapy born?

The term "Equitherapy" is quite new. But the practice of mediation with animals has existed for a very long time. Animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, ...) were introduced in psychiatric hospitals a long time ago. Freud tried it with his dog for his psychoanalytical interviews, and he realized that it already had effects on his patients. The term "equitherapy" is quite recent, especially in France, because in other countries it has already existed for some years.

But animal mediation is a little more known than equitherapy.

Do you know Hassen Bouchakour with Dr Peyo (the horse that visits people with cancer)? Is this a form of equitherapy for you?

"He did cover the presence of the horse in care. But it's not quite equitherapy. It has helped to highlight the benefits of the presence of the horse with patients suffering from cancer or incurable diseases. There are even people who have grown up with the presence of a horse by their side and when a horse is brought back to the hospital so long afterwards, it gives them emotion and comfort. It's not magic, the presence of a horse is efficient, we can prove it in many ways" reveals Aurélie.

Others informations

"Equitherapy sessions are not reimbursed by the social security because this method of care is not yet recognized by the State", informs us the equitherapist. "On the other hand, some complementary health insurance companies (mutual insurance companies) pay for some equitherapy sessions. And if one is in a handicap situation and recognized by the MDPH (Maison Départementale des Personnes Handicapées), the latter can take care of a part of the equitherapy sessions. More and more recognition is being done today especially with some practitioners who refer their patients to equitherapists."

In order to practice this profession, Aurélie advises having some background and experience before embarking on the equitherapist training.

For those who might be interested, Aurélie can take on interns people are in the equine therapy training program.

For sessions with children, she can involve the parents during the session, but the exercises will be adapted and the child must obviously agree.

How to contact Aurélie Esnault :

Interview and article by :

Justine Couturier, Laboa Marketing Assistant

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