Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Therapeutic horseback riding

When we first looked into therapeutic horseback riding both my husband and I thought it was just a way for horse enthusiasts to encourage/justify horse riding.  Really how much benefit could someone get from sitting on a horse.  We were mistaken the benefits are real and the kids are having fun while gaining these benefits.

Just by sitting on a moving horse the children's muscles are being worked as the horse moves.  While on the horse the children are encourage to sit up straight and in the center of the horse which is working on core strength and balance.  Depending on the riders abilities they may have a side walker on each side of the horse holding the riders leg, a lead person guiding the horse and an instructor running the lessons.  They are taught right from the start to use their voice (if able) and body to tell the horse what they would like the horse to do ie. squeeze their legs and say "walk on".  As their abilities increase so does what is expected from the child - they progress from just sitting to sitting and holding the reins, once holding the reins is mastered they start directing the horse with the reins.  What a huge boost to the child's self esteem and confidence it is when they realize they are commanding this huge animal and it is responding to their directions.

The rider is also learning sequencing, patterning and motor planning - the riding ring has letters on the walls and the instructor will give directions of where to ride.  For example ride from a to b and then cross over to d.  The child is learning with support of side walkers and the horse leader how to follow these directions.

In our family 5 children ride weekly and it is a highlight of their week.  When its Emma's turn to ride she gets to the riding block and yells at the top of her lungs for her horse to come.  Nicole cannot get on her horse fast enough.  Normally Nicole only speaks to people she really knows well when the mood strikes her but while up on the horse she transforms into a very chatty little girl speaking with everyone. Kayley has progressed that she doesn't need side walkers or a person leading the horse, she guides the horse with the reins and body movements.

The benefits of riding are incredible and I have only touched on a few of the many benefits.  We are very thankful that our children can participate in this program which is run mainly by volunteers.  Without the support of all these amazing volunteers our children would not have this sort of opportunity so a big shout out "thank you to all the volunteers".


  1. I have been wanting to do this with our daughter for a long time. I grew up riding horseback and I loved it but I just know it would be a great form of therapy too!

  2. I grew up riding & volunteering with a therapeutic horse program (SPUR, associated with the NJ Park system). Another major benefit of hippotherapy is that when sitting on a horse, the motion produced in the riders pelvic area closely mimics that of walking, allowing for more "normal" hip movement & release. The social and emotional benefits are also huge. It is effective for a variety of types of disability, including emotional trauma and 'social' disorders (such as autism).