Many parents are given discouraging news about their children with disabilities — this prognosis gives little hope to parents of these children, which is an unfair and negative situation. There are therapies many parents have never heard of, including equine therapy.
While every child will respond differently to various therapies, equine therapy has demonstrated success in helping children with Rett Syndrome learn how to sit up on their own or encouraging children with cerebral palsy to walk.
In equine therapy, children learn how to ride horses. This activity helps develop muscle tone, balance, motor skills, focus, and coordination. It is similar to physical therapy in its goals and the skills it helps create or develop, but it provides the child with a therapy in a comforting and even enjoyable atmosphere — and that’s why it works.
In addition to learning to ride horses, children are given instruction on grooming, which promotes caring for other living things with problem-solving activities. Equine therapy also promotes personal growth and stress reduction. The self-confidence gained from equine therapy is something that translates to other areas of the child’s life.
Equine therapy has proven success with children and adult with emotional or developmental disorders. The use of horses for therapy likely started as early as the times of the Ancient Greeks, as horses were not merely used for riding, but they also served as a means for physical and mental well-being. In 1952, Liz Hartel won the gold medal for Dressage at the Helsinki Olympic Games — she was constricted to a wheelchair due to polio, but she was determined to ride a horse and improve her strength and muscle coordination.
By 1960, equine therapy was practiced in the United States and Canada. Hippotherapy, or physical therapy on horseback, is a recognized therapy. Other names for equine therapy include equine-facilitated mental health or equine experiential learning. Doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, and teachers will refer patients to equine therapy, as it works towards becoming a recognized and acclaimed therapy modality.
Equine Therapy, Equine Therapy for Disabled Children
Stable Life Inc., History of Therapeutic Riding
Photo by Fort Meade