Guide to Therapeutic Horseback Riding

For people with a variety of disabilities, therapeutic horseback riding provides much-needed physical and emotional exercise. It is becoming a widespread form of treatment favored by many because of its potential for success.

Therapeutic horseback riding works by having a trained professional teach someone with a disability how to ride a horse. Not only does the patient learn the skills required for horseback riding, he also learns independence, responsibility and companionship. Patients who ride horses for therapy often develop a deep bond with the horse. This bond can be essential in the treatment of mental or emotional disabilities.

As a patient becomes connected to the horse and makes progress in his riding ability, he generally gains a sense of self-esteem, which improves his recovery.

A patient must trust the horse, especially when trying to keep his balance. This trust can help the patient to model successful human relationships.

Horseback riding also helps those with physical disabilities by moving their bodies in a way that's similar to natural human motion. This increases flexibility and muscle strength.

Therapeutic horseback riding was originally used to treat orthopedic dysfunction. Now, therapeutic horseback riding helps patients with a number of disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, amputation, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, and many more.

Therapeutic horseback riding has shown to be effective, and is recognized by the American Physical Therapy Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association.

The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) is one of the primary therapeutic horseback riding organizations in the US. It helps more than 5,500 people across the country. Other groups include the American Hippotherapy Association and the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.

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