Benefits of equine therapy

Equine-assisted therapy, hippotherapy and therapeutic riding are all terms for a process where horses are used as therapy animals.

Therapeutic riding was developed in the 1950s in Europe as a tool for improving the lives of individuals with physical disabilities. The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) was founded in 1969 to promote and support therapeutic riding in the United States and Canada.

Individuals with almost any kind of disability, whether temporary or permanent, can benefit from therapeutic riding. Research conducted by the American Hippotherapy Association has proven that the multidimensional movements of the horse provide a disabled rider with "the opportunity to explore, control and coordinate posture and movement."

There are many physical and psychological benefits in the practice. Horseback riding gently and 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.

There are also positive psychological benefits to therapeutic riding. A riding arena can be a nice break from a doctor’s office or physical therapy center. Many people, whether in therapy or not, also benefit from the process of learning to guide and control a horse.

There is widespread acceptance of hippotherapy within the medical and educational communities. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) all recognize hippotherapy.

Major third party payers throughout the country reimburse for treatment that includes the movement of the horse as a treatment tool. Continuing Education Units (CEU's) are routinely granted for AHA approved and other courses taught by clinicians with recognized expertise in hippotherapy.

Learn more about equine therapy