Therapeutic Riding and Animal Assisted Therapy
True success is measured by attaining personal goals, rather than making money or winning prizes – the confidence to get on a horse, or the ability to navigate around a cone, or trotting once around the ring. Therapeutic Riding involves a certified instructor, with trained volunteers, assisting riders to achieve therapeutic and other life goals, acquire horsemanship skills, and establish a special bond with their horse. It is the horse’s three-dimensional stride which makes Therapeutic Riding such an effective tool. The horse’s movement simulates the natural human gait. This in turn stimulates the rider physically and cognitively toward reaching their personal goals. This gentle rhythmic movement helps improve balance, muscle control and tone, motor development and coordination, posture, strength and overall body awareness. Riders, many for the first time in their lives, can experience the freedom and joy of independent movement.
Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity for the purpose of contributing positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of individuals with special needs. Therapeutic riding provides benefits in the areas of health, education, sport and recreation & 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 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (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.T