Equine Assisted Therapies unique benefits are derived from the transfer of movement from horse to rider. For people with special needs, adaptive riding can be a especially powerful and liberating experience.
Lessons include instruction in basic riding skills as well as opportunities for social interaction, recreation, sport, therapy, and work with basic developmental concepts. Activities exercise both “mind and muscle” and can produce improved mobility, balance, posture, coordination, language development, behavior control and concentration.
A horse’s movement closely resembles the normal gait of a human. Physically, it can elicit specific changes in the rider, and it can also benefit individuals with sensory-integration issues. A smooth-gaited horse can provide the input needed to help a rider establish rhythm. A rough-gaited horse may provide the stimulation needed to help organize and integrate sensory input. Movement exploration while on the horse can help improve overall body awareness.
The emotional benefits of adaptive riding are abundant and diverse. The primary benefit comes from the relationships that develop among riders, volunteers, horses and staff. These personal connections foster an environment of unconditional acceptance, which helps riders confront their fears and anxieties and build their self-esteem. For some of our participants, having the chance to develop new skills and bond with our horses in a farm environment helps celebrate their abilities and provide additional opportunities for success.
On an intellectual level, we have found that working with a therapy horse provides many of our riders with the motivation to learn new things. Individuals with learning or cognitive impairments benefit from improved concentration, patience, coping skills and discipline. Broader educational goals such as letter recognition and sequencing also can be incorporated into equine activities.
Socially, adaptive riding activities help individuals interact with their peers in group settings. Riding and the related activities we offer are enjoyable, yet they also provide the challenges needed to help our riders achieve success and experience all the benefits of their positive interaction with horses, volunteers and staff.