Equine Therapy

Helios-the horse from whom I was ungracefully separated yesterday

I fell off a horse yesterday while jumping. I’m fine, just a little achy this morning–I don’t bounce like I used to. I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember, and truly cherish the relationship that builds between us. At the barn where I ride, I’ve been on several of the horses and there are several I’d still like to ride–I fall in love with all of them and pine for more time to ride. Even when I don’t feel like getting up early on a Sunday to ride, I am always, ALWAYS glad I have done it–what I get from the experience is indescribable.

Equine Therapy (also known as hippotherapy, from the Greek word for horse) is an amazing science and practice of therapeutic riding for those with mental and physical challenges.

Photo/link: ahorseconnection.com

From the Equine Therapy Associates website:

Horse riding as therapy is equally appropriate for those with mental and physical challenges as it is for very young riders, those who need to boost their confidence, those who return to the sport after many years, and those who have developed an interest in riding in mature years. Research conducted by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) shows that therapeutic techniques can promote mental, physical, and emotional rewards.

Because the horse’s gait most closely approximate a human’s, therapeutic riding gently and rhythmically moves the rider’s body in a fashion that enhances muscle strength, balance, and flexibility. For individuals facing emotional or mental challenges, the discipline, companionship, and routine of the partnership between horse and rider helps promote self-esteem, patience, and confidence. Virtually all riders, with or without special challenges, find that horseback riding fosters independence. The therapeutic benefits of riding are acknowledged by many medical professions, including the American Physical Therapy Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association. Increasingly, insurance plans offer partial, if not full, reimbursement for therapy conducted by an certified instructor in an accredited facility.

The roughly 700 Operating Centers of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association run the gamut from small, personalized, private farms where one or two instructors use their own horses and direct their own programs, to large corporations, led by Boards of Directors, employing dozens of horses and instructors, with a hundred or more volunteers. In all, NARHA riding centers encompass more than 35,000 volunteers, 2,515 instructors, 5,500 equines, and 600+ therapists.

Equine therapy programs around the world depend on the work of volunteers who are instrumental in sessions as well as horse care. If you’re a little “horsey” or even a curious first-timer, somebody is doing this precious and valuable work near you right now…and they need a hand.

Find a NARHA Center here.

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