Malibu Wellness Ranch

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Working With Horses During Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Spending time with animals can help you during substance use disorder (SUD) treatment in various ways. In general, animals have been shown to have an effect on reducing the stress hormone cortisol and even lowering your blood pressure. They have a unique ability to help you reduce your stress level through the unconditional love and support they show. 

The connection between humans and animals has always been strong. Animals offer us companionship, help, and support. Sometimes animals can even be used to help us face mental health challenges. When you think about animal-assisted therapy, you might automatically think about dogs or even cats. But have you ever considered the benefits of working with horses, particularly in addiction treatment?

Unique Nature of Horses

Horses have almost always been an integral part of human society. They have a unique ability to read emotions in humans and understand our behavior. There is evidence that suggests horses have adapted to interpret humans through our body odors, posture, and facial expressions. These animals also have remarkable memories, which allow them to learn new tasks and remember the people they have worked with. 

Horses can even be used in mental health and SUD treatment. Whether you are riding them or participating in their care, working with horses has been shown to have both mental and physical health benefits. When riding horses, you are developing strength, coordination, and balance. You are also building your self-confidence and self-esteem by learning new skills and creating a bond with another living creature.  

Horses and Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Working with horses as part of treatment for SUD can be life-changing. When you provide the care a horse needs and participate in activities with the horse, you are learning several important skills. The first is the joy of building a connection with another living creature. Often when a person is struggling with addiction, their ability to feel joy and relate to others is negatively impacted. Working with a horse can help you regain those abilities.  

Extensive overuse of drugs and alcohol affects your brain’s cognitive functions. During treatment, it can be instrumental to have activities that exercise your brain. Working with horses can help you increase your attention to detail and your ability to focus. It sharpens your sensory perception and provides opportunities to improve your communication skills. 

Animals, such as horses, have a unique ability to help us get in touch with our emotions and experience a certain vulnerability. Understanding your own feelings and finding healthy ways to cope with them is essential to recovery from SUD. When you successfully bond with a horse, you are improving your emotional intelligence, which will help you build confidence and increase your self-esteem. 

Equine Recovery Program at Malibu Wellness Ranch

At Malibu Wellness Ranch, we understand the powerful impact that horses can have on the addiction recovery process. Our equine recovery program is our signature experiential treatment component. Our 800-acre ranch has over 40 horses of different sizes and personalities. 

When clients arrive at Malibu Wellness Ranch, they are assigned to a specific horse that will be a part of their treatment program and responsibilities during their stay. All of our horses have unique personalities, and we try to match our clients with a horse that they will be most compatible with. Clients will be responsible for the care of their horse companion, such as grooming and tacking.

During their stay at Malibu Wellness Ranch, clients have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities with their horses. Horseback riding and other activities can help build strength, balance, and coordination. It also provides the opportunity to work on teamwork and problem-solving skills.

Importance of Fun During Treatment

Our equine recovery program is not the only experience that our clients can enjoy. One of our main goals is for our clients to have fun in addition to doing important addiction recovery work during treatment. There are many mental health benefits to exploring the great outdoors, and our facility is uniquely able to offer our clients the chance to do just that.

While participating in treatment at Malibu Wellness Ranch, our clients have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of adventure-based therapies and recreational activities, including:

  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Paddleboarding
  • ATV riding of all kinds
  • Hiking
  • Movie Nights and Bonfires
  • Variety of outdoor sports like volleyball and miniature golf

Struggling with addiction can quickly take over your whole life. An important part of treatment for SUD is relearning how to function and find enjoyment in life without the use of drugs and alcohol. When you can participate in hobbies that bring you joy during treatment, you can continue to pursue them, which can be influential to your success in recovery. 


At Malibu Wellness Ranch, we offer a unique experience-based treatment program for substance use disorders (SUDs). On our 800-acre ranch, we offer a variety of activities that can help our clients develop confidence and the life skills they need. Our equine recovery program is specifically designed to be a life-changing experience during which our clients can learn more about themselves and their capabilities. For more information about the amazing facility and resources at Malibu Wellness Ranch, call us today at (800) 862-5428. We are a premier destination for SUD treatment, and we would love to speak with you to see if our program is a good fit for you or your loved one.