Equestrian therapy uses equine oriented activities to help people with disabilities and emotional issues. Persons with disabilities benefit physically and emotionally from equine therapy activities. Equestrian therapy addresses issues such as trust, honesty, accountability, responsibility, patience, relationships, self-respect, respect for others, self confidence, anger and social skills.
There are numerous physical benefits as well. Horseback activities encourage stretching and strengthening of underdeveloped or underused muscles, core strength improvement, improve posture and coordination, help develop gross and fine motor skills, range of motion and the riders awareness of their body in space.
Emphasis is not only on the physical benefits of riding, but also on the development of the relationship between the rider and the horse. Interacting with horses challenges issues of fear and self-confidence. Social skills, sensory skills, speech and communication also improve tremendously.
Horses can help teach patience and empathy. They are non-judgmental and help raise self-esteem. People learn to work through fear, set goals, and achieve these goals. They also learn to problem solve and stay on task.
Equine Therapy also involves teaching the rider the necessary skills and techniques required to ride a horse as independently as possible. The autonomy associated with independently riding a horse also serves to promote the riders self esteem and positive body image.
Equine Therapy has gained respect and acceptance as a benefit to people with special needs. This has promoted an enormous growth in programs offered. All of the staff must pass certification requirements.
The instructors, volunteers, and supporters help to insure riders will continue to have the opportunity to benefit from their relationship with the horse. And the horses themselves are happy to help. Look for a program in your area and join them in their efforts. There are many ways to help. Instructors, volunteers, horse handlers, barn help, and donations are always needed and appreciated.