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WHAT IS THERAPEUTIC HORSEMANSHIP?

Therapeutic horsemanship relates specifically to partnering with the horse in therapeutic riding lessons, working on horsemanship skills with horses in the barn or stable, and competition.

There are many terms in use today for the activity that was originally called therapeutic riding.  There are two terms widely used today -- equine assisted activities and equine assisted therapy.  Equine assisted therapy is performed by licensed credentialed medical or mental health professions within their specialties:  hippotherapy, equine facilitated mental health and psychotherapy.  Equine assisted activities are performed by instructors certified within their specialties:  therapeutic riding, interactive vaulting, driving, equine experiential learning, and sport/competition coaching.


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THERAPEUTIC HORSEMANSHIP?


In recent years, the benefits of therapeutic riding have gained worldwide recognition.  The rhythmical, repeatable, 3-dimensional and symmetrical movement of the horse provide numerous physical benefits such as:

  • Increase or reduce muscle tone
  • Strengthen muscles
  • Improve balance and coordination
  • Promote low impact exercise


The ability to be mobile; the ability to bond and partner with the non-judgmental horse; and, the possibility of independence, when working with or riding horses, provide many emotional and cognitive benefits such as:

  • Improved self-image
  • Ability to organize thoughts and body movements
  • Increased attention span
  • Development of speech
  • Increased motivation
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Opportunity to compete in a sport


WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM THERAPEUTIC HORSEMANSHIP?

Participants in therapeutic horsemanship programs range in age from young children to seniors.  Individual programs may limit who can participate based on program-specific policies such as:  age limits, weight limits, ability to sit upright with minimal support or specialization in specific disabilities.  Therapeutic horsemanship may benefit people with a wide range of physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities including, but not limited to:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Autism Spectrum
  • Spina Bifida
  • Mental Retardation
  • Developmental Delay
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Cerebrovascular Accident (Stroke)
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Behavioral Disorders
  • Emotional Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Visual and Hearing Disabilities
  • Etc.