Animal-Assisted Therapy
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What's the Difference Between Horseback Riding and Equine Therapy?

The Difference Between Horse Back Riding and Equine Therapy

Therapeutic Horseback Riding is a form of physical therapy for people who have a range of disabilities including physical, emotional, cognitive, and social difficulties. Horses provide a tool for physical therapy, emotional growth, and cognitive improvement, in a unique format that is fun, exhilarating, and sometimes has the power to change a person's perspective on life! Besides the physical benefits derived from therapeutic riding, the contact with the animal is a powerful experience, and the strong bond that is sometimes experienced often has a profound, uplifting effect on people who are troubled or suffering.

Specially trained physical doctors, physical therapist, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and psychotherapists utilize specific activities on the horse, which are beneficial to the individual. The treatment occurs in a controlled safe environment where the individual's responses to sensory input and the resulting adaptive responses can be observed. This allows doctors to establish a baseline for neurological, physical, and sensory functions so that they may be able to judge a person's reactions and improvements.

Therapeutic Horseback Riding can benefit people with a wide range of individual challenges and disabilities, including:

  • Autism
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Amputation
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Brain Injury
  • Developmentally Delay
  • Down's Syndrome
  • Emotion disabilities
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Stroke patients
  • Visual and Hearing Impairment
  • Speech Impairments
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Extended Grief
  • Anxiety attacks and Phobias
  • Cardiovascular disabilities
  • Chemical and Alcohol Abuse
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Spina Bifida
  • And others
Because the gait of a horse when walking is a gentle, repetitive movement, it moves the rider's body in way that is very similar to the human gait; physically disabled riders often achieve greater flexibility, muscle strength, and balance. This type of therapy can improve balance, posture, mobility, reactive time, as well as improve problems such as emotional, cognitive, behavioral, communicative, and social malfunction.

Many riders, both able-bodied and those with challenges to overcome, form a strong connection to the horse that they cannot get from most sports. For example, for the rider confined to a wheelchair, the horse is his or her mobility and a means of transport. For individuals with emotional problems, the unique relationship that is formed with the horse can result in increased confidence, self-esteem, and patience. The sense of wonder and independence that is experienced while riding on a horse is universally beneficial.

 

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