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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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How farm animals can play a role in therapy

Jennifer Tait discusses how farm animals can play a role in therapy.

Working on a farm can establish an enormous sense of well-being.  Experienced farmers are well aware of the mental and emotional well-being that farm animals can impart.

Numerous scientific studies have shown how farm animals can provide improvements in condition to people diagnosed with psychiatric conditions. One journal published by the BMC found that such improvements can be ‘significant’.

Animals of all types, including horses, pigs, and cows, can positively impact human well-being. Many farms are starting to diversify to offer this invaluable service without causing any particular misdirection in their day-to-day business.

Therapy dogs

Of course, the stars of the animal therapy world are dogs. Therapy dogs have had an ever-increasing role to play in US society, and particularly so since 9/11 when, as the Kennel Club asserts, they were called into action en masse.

Farms that breed dogs, or have a significant dog population, will likely hold at least a handful of the ideal therapy dog breeds, including Border Collies and Labrador Retrievers.

Border Collies, in particular, make great therapy dogs. Their calm nature, ease of training, and easy-going demeanour makes them an excellent animal to help dispense with therapy to those in need.

Cows helping out

Cows are perhaps the most iconic farm animal, and they also have a huge role to play in providing therapy.

As CNBC highlights, one farm in upstate New York has been providing animal-based therapy in ‘cow cuddling’ sessions. Those attending brush, pet, play and snuggle with the bovines. Why cows?

Cows are huge animals; they can offer a sense of real warmth and security, like a blanket.

They provide immense comfort and a connection to the simplicity of living and surviving in nature.

All human-animal interactions have been shown to lower stress and blood pressure – the size of a cow, and its gentleness, along with infamous curiosity, can create a profoundly positive experience for a human.

Goat yoga’s explosion

Yoga is a fantastic way to help build mental well-being while also getting some exercise.

The practice can reduce stress, improve cardiovascular health, and build strength through the body – all factors which are conducive to a positive state of being.

Goat yoga, in which miniature (or baby) goats interact with attendees while they undertake yoga poses, has been highlighted by CNN as a way to enhance the well-being benefits of a yoga session.

There can be issues – a goat bouncing all over you while you are trying to hold a pose can make it difficult. However, laughter is very much welcome in most yoga sessions, if not encouraged.

Pigs and horses

Other animals can provide help, too. Pigs, famed for their intelligence, can provide much the same experience as dogs.

Horses, and their quiet splendour, are another animal renowned for their adaptability to therapy.

Essentially, the entire stable of animals can provide something to humans undergoing mental and emotional stress, and that is something to be cherished.

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