The term therapeutic riding has evolved over the years since the lead organization North American Riding for the Handicapped was founded in 1969. The organization has recently been renamed Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH-I) to better represent the industry and the numerous disciplines and equine assisted activities and therapies offered by centers. Centers now offer equine facilitated psychotherapy and learning, therapeutic carriage driving, interactive vaulting, hippotherapy, competition and stable management.
Therapeutic Horsemanship also encompasses a wider spectrum of disabilities and needs that a skilled therapy horse and certified instructor can address to help participants improve their cognitive, emotional, social and/or behavioral skills. In addition, to many physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, muptiple sclerosis, paralysis, stroke and traumatic brain injury. Centers work with those with autism, attention deficit disorder, anxiety and depression and have targeted programs to help at-risk youth, veterans and military personnel, seniors with Alzheimer’s and victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
Therapeutic Riding Therapeutic riding uses equine-assisted activities for the purpose of contributing positively to cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of people with disabilities. Therapeutic riding provides benefits in the areas of therapy, education sport and recreation and leisure.
Throughout the world, there are thousands of individuals with special needs who experience the rewarding benefits of horseback riding. A disability does not have to limit a person from riding horses. In fact, experiencing the motion of a horse can be very therapeutic. Because horseback riding 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. In addition to the therapeutic benefits, horseback riding also provides recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors.
At PATH Intl. centers, professional staff and volunteers work closely with riders to ensure safe riding sessions. A new rider is generality assisted by two sidewalkers who walk alongside the horse, as well as a horse leader. Riding classes are taught by an instructor who has a strong equine background, as well as an understanding of various disabilities.
According to The American Hippotherapy Association’s definition of Hippotherapy is: “Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational and speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement. Hippotherapy is part of an integrated treatment program to achieve functional outcomes. Hippotherapy is provided by a specially trained physical therapist, physical therapy assistant, occupational therapist, certified occupational therapy assistant or speech and language pathologist”.