We serve children and adults who have physical, mental, emotional, or cognitive disabilities. Applicants do have to be evaluated to try to insure that it is safe for them to participate in the program. Their physicians have to agree that riding is safe for them to do. People with the following disabilities commonly participate and benefit from therapeutic riding:
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Cerebral Palsy
- Visual Impairment
- Down Syndrome
- Intellectual Disability
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Spina Bifida
- Brain Injuries
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Learning Disabilities
- Attention Deficit Disorder
What are the benefits of therapeutic riding?
The physical benefits of therapeutic riding are derived from the gait of the horse which resembles a human’s natural body movement. Horseback riding gently moves the riders’ bodies up and down, back and forth, side to side. Most riders see increases in muscle tone, improved flexibility, and range of motion. Riders must adjust their posture to stay balanced on the horse, so equilibrium reactions are stimulated which help with balance, orientation, and body awareness.
The horse is a great equalizer for riders. People who are unable to participate in other athletics can compete in equine games and sports. People who cannot walk gain “legs” and those who are used to sitting in wheelchairs now have a new “higher” view of life while on horseback. The immediate gratification of independence and control is accomplished in the therapeutic riding arena. Riders are encouraged to participate as much as they can in grooming, saddling, and leading their horse. Praise and encouragement are readily available from the volunteers who help. Additional benefits may include strengthening cognitive and sequential thinking, problem solving, confidence and self esteem building, and movement toward achieving individual goals set by riders, parents, and the instructor.
Therapeutic riding also promotes socialization. Often the social interaction can be as important as the riding lesson. Friendships are made, acceptable behaviors reinforced, and unacceptable behaviors are discouraged. A human and animal bond develops between the participants and their therapy horses as they discover that the horses are gentle, friendly, accepting, and do not see disabilities.
How do I apply?
People do not need a physician to refer them to our program; they can self refer. However, applicants do have to fill out a detailed application which includes a 4-page Medical History and Physician’s Statement. Their physician must state whether or not therapeutic riding is an appropriate activity for them. We review the applicant’s diagnoses against those listed by PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International); they advise us of precautions and possible contraindications for riding for people with certain diagnoses. We want to do no harm; not everyone can safely ride. After the paperwork is completed and sent back to us and reviewed, we have our certified instructor and, if needed, someone on our Medical Committee assess the potential rider. At that point, it still could be determined that riding is inappropriate for the applicant. However, if the application is approved, this assessment can help us better serve the rider. We need to decide things like the most effect way to mount the rider on the horse, exercises we need to avoid, and special equipment which might be helpful. We need to match the right horse to the rider. For example, a rider with CP might need a narrow horse with smooth gaits to help relax tight leg muscles. A bareback pad or English saddle could help this rider better feel the motion of the horse. In contrast, a rider with autism may need a horse with a choppier gait to help keep them engaged. A larger horse might discourage a rider with this disorder from wanting to jump off.
If you are interested in applying as a program participant, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 731-559-4184, and we will mail you an application.