Jump to: navigation, search

Therapeutic horseback riding

Therapeutic horseback riding (also known as Equine Assisted Activity or Adaptive Riding) is used to teach riding skills to people with disabilities. Therapeutic riding is beneficial to children and adults who present with any of a wide range of cognitive, physical, and emotional conditions.


Equine Assisted Activities

Therapeutic riding programs should be delivered by a Nationally certified instructor after assessment by a qualified therapist with specialized training. In an Equine Assisted Activities program, a certified or specially trained riding instructor teaches a person with a disability how to ride a horse. However, the environment of the horse can provide more than just riding skills. The programs which offer the equine environment to people with disabilities can teach companionship, responsibility, leadership, vocational, educational skills as well as offer competition venues in the different horse disciplines. Riding a horse provides a unique and often profound recreational or leisure activity for many people. There are many sports which people who have disabilities can participate in for enhancing their lives which offer social and physical fitness as addressed in the Special Olympic programs for people with a cognitive disability. There are hundreds of programs around the world as well as many organizations dedicated to the various forms of horse riding or horse care which address many other disabilities and may not have a cognitive disability.

The student who interacts with their horse may extend this to others and to form meaningful relationships with people. Building a relationship with an animal is very rewarding in many aspects; for a person with an emotional, social or psychological disability, the trust and loyalty of an animal demonstrates to the student how important they are and then they may extend these attributes to personal relationships. Horses also help people feel in control of their situation because there is a direct correlation between action and reaction. To learn how to care for and ride a horse, a student must also be able to communicate efficiently with the horse and the instructor. In this way, riding is a very social activity, but is less daunting to people who are uncomfortable in social situations. However, the experience of riding a horse is very different. Riding helps to empower people and enables them to connect on a personal level. The sometimes unpredictable nature of animals and situations also creates a real-life environment in which students will be able to confront fears and make adjustments to situations beyond their control.


The term "Therapeutic Riding" originally was used in Germany. This was to address orthopedic dysfunction for people, such as scoliosis. The physician would have a physiotherapist and a specially trained horse and instructor to address the strength and orthopedic dysfunction for a patient for one year. After a year the patient was discharged. The physiotherapist worked with the physician and the patient to attain the patient's goals and the instructor was responsible for the horse. A special kind of hippotherapy is "huifbedrijden" or wagon-bed riding, developed in the Netherlands in the 1990's.

In the USA

The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) accredits centers providing a variety of beneficial services to people with disabilities.[1] The Equine Assisted Growth & Learning Association (EAGALA) focuses more on the mental health side of equine interactions. They also provide certification for mental health professionals and equine professionals. [2]

NARHA categorizes these services into two general categories, Equine Assisted Activity and Equine Assisted Therapy. Equine Assisted Activities are those services provided by a trained professional focusing on recreational, leisure, sport or education. Examples of Equine Assisted Activities are: therapeutic horse back riding, carriage driving, vaulting and equine facilitated learning. These activities are guided by an educational or learning model. Skills are taught to riders, vaulters and students. The professional guiding the experience is a specially trained NARHA certified instructor. The professionals’ expertise provides them with training in specialized, adaptive teaching methods that allow people with a variety of disabilities to learn horsemanship skills and experience the equine environment.


Therapeutic horseback riding has been used to help people with autism.[3] [4] [5] [6]



  • Dirienzo LN, Dirienzo LT, Baceski DA. (2007). Heart Rate Response to Therapeutic Riding in Children with CP: An exploration study. Pediatric Phys Therapy, 19:160-165.

External links


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...