Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Heidi Blocker

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This paper investigates the existing literature on equine-assisted therapy and its hypothesized mechanisms. Understanding its mechanisms allow us to implement equine-assisted therapy as an alternative treatment, revealing the intricate dynamics that make the human-horse relationship valuable. Attachment theory is hypothesized as one of the driving forces behind the human-horse interaction. It reinforces the idea that humans and horses can establish secure attachment bonds. These mutual bonds increase the value of equine-assisted therapy because they allow for social, personal, and attachment style growth. Emotion contagion is the mechanism by which these bonds are strengthened. It underlines the importance of nonverbal communication and trust in the horse-human dyad. Equine conspecific behavior enables attachment theory and emotion contagion between horses and humans, specifically horses’ attention to their environment and instinct to communicate nonverbally. Ultimately, this paper aims to deepen the scientific community’s understanding of equine-assisted therapy, attachment theory, and emotion contagion to establish it as an alternative form of psychotherapy.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.