Equine-Assisted Therapy: The Power of Healing with Horses

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It’s Saturday morning and I’m 2 kilometers from Route 21 in Nicoya, in a small village called Obispo de Mansión. Underneath the shade trees in the middle of a forest is an alternative therapy center that uses horses to treat patients with various diseases and disabilities.


I’m on the Castillo Rodríguez family property at the Centro de Equinoterapia Facundo, which promotes the neuromuscular, psychological, cognitive and social rehabilitation of children, adolescents and adults using horses as a therapeutic tool.


Melania Castillo is the center’s certified equine-assisted therapist and mother of Facundo Céspedes, a 4-year-old with spastic cerebral palsy. It was because of Facundo that Melania began her current career.


“Being able to help others, seeing a child arrive unable to control his or her movements and then, as they get to know you, being able to make them smile, that doesn’t have a price,” Castillo said, a tear running down her cheek.


Equine-assisted therapy has three tenets: the transmission of corporal heat from the horse, which reaches 39 degrees Celsius and is excellent for stretching and relaxing; the transmission of rhythmic pulses, as each step transmits 110 impulses that are felt in the horse’s back; and a tridimensional marching pattern that is created while the horse walks and that pulsates upward and toward both sides.


The sensation isn’t perceived immediately, but rather is a slow process requiring persistence, perseverance and commitment. A patient should visit at least three months before seeing progress, but many of them don’t return after the first few sessions, Castillo said.


The center opened one year ago, in September 2015, and since then it has received patients every week who are interested in trying out a therapy that’s new in Nicoya.