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November 16, 2017

Eating Disorder Healing Through Equine Therapy

Woman teaching Equine Therapy

Article Contributed by Kristen Zollars, LPC, Program Director of Equine Services for The Meadows Ranch

“A horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care. Put your hand on your horse and your heart in your hand.” – Pat Parelli

Every time I’ve stepped into an arena in the past, it has been as a competitor. Now, though, my role in the arena has shifted because of working with women and young girls with eating disorders through equine therapy.

Each day starts the same as it always has; as the barn lights come on, the horses greet me with a nicker in anticipation of their early morning feeding. However, instead of preparing for a competition, the horses are getting ready to be an essential part of someone’s day.

As the shuttle carrying patients arrive at the barn, new faces and some familiar ones gather around waiting to meet their horse for the day’s activity.

Many eating disorder patients have trouble understanding their own emotions and have difficulty giving or receiving acceptance. Equine Therapy helps with easing these difficulties and helping patients be better at acceptance.

When patients interact with a horse, they never have to tell the horse when they are happy, sad, angry, relaxed, confident, or uncertain because the horse already knows long before the patient does.

As an equine specialist in Equine Therapy, I get to step back and watch the journey evolve between a horse and a patient as the patient starts to discover new awareness’s about themselves.

The connection a patient finds with a horse is sometimes shown by the patient, and at other times, by the horse. One such situation occurred with one of our minis named Charlie.

In this specific instance, Charlie walked over to a patient who was standing in the middle of the horse arena and remained motionless by her side as she slowly began to run her fingers through his mane and pet his neck while he wrapped his head around her leg showing support and understanding.

The patient shared with the group afterward that she had just completed an intensive session of Survivors Workshop and was feeling emotionally drained and the support and love Charlie showed her was exactly what she needed.

When patients interact with horses, they experience the rare elements of grace, beauty, empowerment, and hope as they put their hand on their horse and their heart in their hand. This is the awesome power of Equine Therapy.


Kristen ZollarsAbout the Author:

Kristen Zollars, of The Meadows Ranch, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Director of the Equine Program. She has worked for the company since 2008 and enjoys practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety, trauma, and other co-occurring disorders. She is passionate about her work with horses and how they help people heal from emotional wounds due to their unconditional nature and instinctual mirroring abilities. Kristen grew up in St. Charles, IL and has been riding and taking care of her own horses since the age of 11. She has fallen into a career she loves where she gets to nurture the powerful relationship between horse and human.


For over 25 years, The Meadows Ranch has offered an unparalleled depth of care through its unique, comprehensive, and individualized program for treating eating disorders and co-occurring conditions affecting adolescent girls and women. Set on scenic ranch property in the healing landscape of Wickenburg, Arizona, The Meadows Ranch allows for seamless transitions between its structured multi-phase treatment. A world-class clinical team of industry experts leads the treatment approach designed to uncover and understand the “whys” of the eating disorder through a host of proven modalities. Providing individuals with tools to re-engage in a healthy relationship with food – and with themselves – disempowers eating disorders and empowers individuals with a renewed enthusiasm for life. Contact us today at 888-496-5498 and find out why The Meadows Ranch is the best choice for eating disorder treatment and recovery. For more information call 1-888-496-5498. or visit www.themeadowsranch.com.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on November 16, 2017.
Recently Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 2, 2018.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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