Therapeutic Horseback Riding
 By Slipknot Sport   •   4th Feb 2010   •   10,594 views   •   12 comments
A few months ago, I was required to write a research essay, topic of our choice. I decided to write about the magical world of therapeutic horseback riding after I have experienced what it can do for people. I wanted to share this with you all, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Over the years, horses have helped many people in a variety of different ways, including therapeutically. History records people with disabilities riding horses as early as the days of the ancient Greeks. This unique type of therapy can be very beneficial to a wide variety of people who have different kinds of challenges and disabilities. Therapeutic horseback riding is a special world that brings together horses, disabled and disadvantaged children and adults, caring volunteers, and professionals in the medical, psychological and educational fields. In the process, the lives of everyone involved are enriched.

Since the beginning of time, therapeutic riding has been used to help and benefit people. Some people think that therapeutic riding is a brand new type of therapy however this is not true at all. Orbasis of ancient Lydia recorded in 600 B.C people riding horses as early as the days of the ancient Greeks. Therapeutic riding is an old and well practiced form of therapy that has developed over hundreds of years. Even in ancient times, the discovered was made that horses could not only be used as a source of transportation, but they could also be used as a way of improving the health and well being of people with handicaps. This discovery was the key to the transformation of therapeutic riding. In the ancient times, people didn’t know how and why riding helped people with handicaps they just knew that after riding a horse, they felt better. Throughout history, people decided to find out what it is about riding that can be so beneficial to people. This lead to many studies and many years of scientific research to find the answer.

Therapeutic Horseback Riding

In modern day, riding has helped people with a wide range of disabilities and challenges both physically and mentally. Horseback riding can help people who have conditions such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain damage, visual impairments, autism, ADD, paralysis, down syndrome, stress disorders, mentally challenged, amputees, stroke survivors, and more. Therapeutic riding does not just benefit one type of disability. It can help people of all ages with many different challenges. This is part of the reason why horseback riding for the disabled is recognized as one of the more progressive forms of therapy.

Riding increases concentration and improves learning skills. For some riders with mental disabilities, remembering your horses name or your instructors name is a huge challenge. In order to make the horse walk, the rider must say the horses name first before anything can happen. Remembering their horses name is a big step forward for some riders, and is rewarded with the horse walking forward. This increases their memory, self-esteem and well being.

For others, riding is a way to improve balance and co-ordination, strengthen muscles, increase circulation and decrease spasticity. Riding a horse is the closest feeling to walking on your own. The movement of the horse is the same type of movement your body makes while walking. Riders who are usually confined to a wheelchair can experience the feeling of walking again while riding a horse. Their lower back muscles are moving the same way they would while walking allowing them to become stronger and improve circulation. Without the help of a horse, these riders may have never been able to experience the feeling of walking again.

Amputees get relief from pressure on their limbs while riding a horse. The horse’s movement increases circulation throughout the body and allows the muscles to relax which relieves the pressure and pain on their amputated limbs. England recognized riding for the disabled as a beneficial form of therapy and offered riding therapy to wounded soldiers at the Oxford hospital during World War 1. Soldiers who received amputations were able to take part in therapeutic riding as part of their medical treatment. One solder says, “The only time since the amputation of my legs that I was completely pain free was when I was riding a horse. There is just something about those creatures that is pure magic.” Riding a horse is an alternative to taking pain medication and you also get exercise in the process.

There are also other benefits therapeutic riding can provide including increased self confidence, responsibility, teamwork, and more. Being able to control such a huge animal and their own body provides riders with increased self confidence. Having to care for and control a horse gives the riders a since of responsibility. Working with the instructors and the horses encourages teamwork. Besides all of these benefits, possibly one of the most important one is the enjoyment of riding. The rider develops a special bond to the horses and also gives them the feeling of friendship. The riders learn to trust the horses and their instructors which can help them psychologically.

As good as all of this sounds, some people are still not convinced that therapeutic riding can be beneficial until they see it for their own eyes. Take for example the MacDonald family. The parents of a little girl who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth started their daughter in a therapeutic riding program as a form of treatment and finally found something that works after ten years of searching.

Kaylee's mother says, “I was skeptical that riding a horse would ever help someone like my daughter Kaylee, but my view quickly changed. After just two weeks of treatment, Kaylee was able to sit up by herself something she was never able to do before.” Kaylee’s mother says. “I have never seen Kaylee so excited about anything before. The results that we got after just a few short weeks were better than the results we have gotten over ten years of other treatments. (Adams 2)” This is an example the progress that can be made when the riders want to be able to do something. It self motivates them, which can help them to want to succeed.

Doctors have said, ‘Her progress is because of the similarities between the horse’s movement and human’s movement. While riding the horse, her muscles are experiencing what it feels like to walk and sit up on her own. It is allowing her to train her brain to have more control over her body, which ultimately lets her to mimic those movements over time. There is no man made machine that is as effective as a horse.” No matter how many years someone may spend using a man made machine as part as their therapy, riding may provide the same results with just a portion of the time needed as shown here. Two weeks of therapeutic riding has produced better results than ten years of using other methods.

Therapeutic riding has not only helped Kaylee physically, but also helped her mentally by being able to concentrate more and stay focused for longer periods of time. Again, this is an example of how riding can help improve memory and concentration by trying to remember the horses name in order for it to walk forward. By staying focused at the task as hand, whether it be trying to remember the horses name or make it walk in a straight line, the riders have to work hard and concentrate in order to succeed.

Therefore, therapeutic riding is beneficial to many different people. Therapeutic riding has been practiced for hundreds of years starting as far back as the ancient Greeks. It continues to help a wide range of people with many different types of disabilities today in the present. Therapeutic riding allows specialists, volunteers and horses to come together to benefit the lives of people living with disabilities. A little girl with cerebral palsy has had more progress with two weeks of therapeutic riding than she did with ten years of other treatments.

Works Cited:
Lydia, L. Strides/ Sinlimites Therapeutic Riding Program Centers, Inc. Nora Fischbach, April 2007. December 2, 2009.

Hazen, M. Little Bits Therapeutic Riding Association for Persons with Disabilities. Little Bits Therapeutic Riding Association, March 2009. December 2, 2009.

Adams, D. Living Proof: Theraputic riding really does work! University of North Texas Press, 2001
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Wow, awesome!
  Feb 4, 2010  •  5,551 views
that was a good article
  Feb 4, 2010  •  5,565 views
Slipknot Sport  
Aww, thank you! I didn't mean for it to be so long, sorry guys... it was required to be this long and I really didn't feel like making it shorter... :
  Feb 4, 2010  •  5,636 views
I love what horses can do for people!
  Feb 5, 2010  •  5,542 views
It's great to see an article like this! I've been volunteering at a therapeutic riding center for several months now and it's amazing what a program like this can do for people with disabilities. To see a child who can't walk on her own, But to be able to sit tall on her horse, Hold the reins and guide the horse through obstacles is truly wonderful and inspirational.
  Feb 5, 2010  •  5,556 views
Slipknot Sport  
It truely is a magical thing BlackHeart. I had the chance to help out at a program a few weeks ago and I just felt so good about it all. It's amazing to see how much something as simple as riding a horse can do for so many people.
  Feb 5, 2010  •  5,636 views
Thumbs up!! Great article. Therapeutic riding is so wonderful and a special thank you should go out to everyone who volunteers with that...such huge differences can be made in those special needs kid's lives =)
  Feb 5, 2010  •  5,624 views
Nice....I used towork at a therapuetic riding center. It was fun!
  Feb 5, 2010  •  5,544 views
I am working at a theraputic riding center(Pal-o-mine Stables) now, For what the horses do for the kids and teens I am always amazed
  Feb 6, 2010  •  5,584 views
I think it's great you wrote an article on this! My mom and dad are PT (physical therapists) and a TON of their patients own horses or ride. I find it amazing how horses can rehabilitate people, especially kids.
  Feb 8, 2010  •  5,541 views
Little Bitty Farm  
Great article!
  May 9, 2011  •  5,567 views
Cruisin Past Curfew  
Great article!
  Apr 3, 2012  •  5,540 views
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