Riding a horse provides a unique and often profound experience for many people. The motion of the horse, the concentration needed to acquire riding skills, and the communication between instructor and rider allow people with a variety of disabilities to benefit from riding. Riding, like many other therapeutic approaches, may be considered a form of recreational, physical and occupational therapy.
BENEFITS & USES
The most obvious and immediately recognizable benefit is physical. Instructors employ a variety of physical tasks that help improve balance, muscle strength, flexibility, joint movement and posture. The act of riding a horse is so unique that riding, combined with other therapies, has a greater effect on the therapeutic goal.
Individuals with the following disabilities commonly participate and benefit from equine facilitated therapy and activities:
Amputations, Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, Brain Injuries, Cardiovascular, Accident/Stroke, Cerebral Palsy, Deafness, Down Syndrome, Emotional Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, Mental Retardation, Multiple Sclerosis, Selective Mutism, Spina Bifida, Spinal Cord Injuries, Visual Impairment.
Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals with special needs.
Therapeutic riding provides benefits in the areas of health, education, sport and recreation & leisure. Throughout the world, there are thousands of individuals with special needs who experience the rewarding benefits of horseback riding. A disability does not have to limit a person from riding horses. In addition to the therapeutic benefits, horseback riding also provides recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors.
Hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes.
Because horseback riding rhythmically moves the rider's body in a manner similar to a human gait, riders with physical disabilities often show improvement in flexibility, balance, and muscle strength.
(Taken from http://www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org/)
EQUINE ASSISTED LEARNING
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is not considered therapy but rather a growth and learning experience. EAL uses horses together with a mental health professional, horse professional and other professionals in activities on the ground to enhance skills such as leadership, group dynamics and/or self-awareness.
It can benefit sport teams, corporate groups as well as many varied groups and individuals seeking personal growth.
This information has been adapted from the EAGALA Fundamentals of EAGALA Model Practice Manual
EQUINE ASSISTED PSYCHOTHERAPY
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), as defined by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), is an alternative to traditional in-office psychotherapy. EAP utilizes horses as an aid in the therapeutic process. It is not a riding program, but rather an environment where both horse and client are free to be themselves.
EAP differs from horsemanship and riding as it focuses on human skills not horse skills. These equine activities allow the client to process thoughts, beliefs, behaviors and patterns and often act as a metaphor to “real life.” It is a collaborative effort between a mental health professional and a horse professional working with clients and horses to address treatment goals.
The use of horses in therapy has been effective with at-risk youth, families, and a variety of clients seeking counseling. It can be experienced both as individual or group therapy. The client who is open to an experiential modality will best be served through EAP. Through it, the client will learn about themselves and others by participating in the activities with the horse.
CARRY 0N Project
for Military Veterans
(Currently under development)
The Carry On Project pairs “off the track” thoroughbred horses in need of a new life and career, with veterans who also need a new start.
With help and guidance from licensed professional counselors and psychologists, working in conjunction with a PATH registered horse specialist, we pair a horse that has suffered the trauma of the track, with a veteran who has faced the trauma of war in order to give both a new purpose.
This program is FREE to veterans and active duty military (both men and women,) especially those who have sustained PTSD, physical injuries, or have experienced combat trauma during their service to our country.