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What Is...

Therapeutic Riding

In a nutshell therapeutic riding is teaching riding skills to people with all types of disabilities, while incorporating fun activities that address some of the riders underlying problems areas.

Let me Explain.

First you have this beautiful living creature "the horse" whoís weight can range anywhere from several hundred pounds to over a ton. Just the sight of this animal can be tantalizing and a little intimidating. Now imagine one is asked to step forward and make friends with this big beautiful hunk of animal. Wow! Can you sense the fear and excitement that one may feel, especially if you never see or experience this type of encounter before. What a way to build self-esteem, work through fear and anxiety, demonstrate self control, and recognize self worth. Plus, talk about bringing a whole new meaning to respect, and trust.
  • Next, this living breathing animal has a lot of things going on, it has a furry coat, hairy mane and tale, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, feet, whinnies, poops, pees, sneezes, shakes, coughs, dusty, cuddly, loving, stinky, and not so stinky, and so much more. Take all this and bottle it up and you have the perfect remedy for integrating sensory input, motivation and arousal for the participant. What other therapy environment offers this type of stimuli? Perfect!
  • Now letís bring a horse brush into the picture. Some may think how brushing a horse would be therapeutic. Well for those who may be working on their motor skills, muscle coordination, counting skills, self control, and all those sensory issues mentioned earlier it is very therapeutic. The best thing is that, by bringing together the horse, rider and the brush you are introducing the rider to an activity that is fun. And furthermore they are enjoying themselves and not realizing the true work being done.
  • You must remember that during the session each rider is equipped with a team. You have an instructor who teaches the class, the horse leader who controls the horse, a side walker who helps to assist and stabilizes the rider, and if need be an additional side walkers will be added if the rider shows a need. As a result the participant is learning the importance of team work, socializing, making new friends, building trust, sharpening listening skills, follow direction. In addition they are receiving the encouragement and assurance that gives the rider the confidence needed to initiate new challenges.
  • Mounting a horse for a ride takes physical strength, flexibility, trust, encouragement, balance, self confidence, motivation and the list goes on. But once you are on the back of this magnificent animal the reward is plenty.
  • Fun! Fun! Fun! The rider is helped in the saddle, adjustments are made and everyone is in place, the order is given for the rider to give the verbal command walk-on. Walk-On! The horse steps forward and everything begins to move. Muscles, Mind, Pelvic, Joints, Spine all body parts are moving in a synchronized beat with the horse. For those who are confided to a wheelchair, walking sticks and walkers are now feeling the freedom from those apparatus that assist them on a daily level. What a sense of AWE it must be for the rider. The gait (walk) of the horse is much like the walk of a human. So, oneís body is moving as if they were walking. If the rider needs a lot of movement you have the horse walk faster, if the rider needs little movement you have the horse move at a slower pace. This movement can also be adjusted by the horse, this is unique, because every horse has a different way of delivering their walk, whether it is smooth, side to side motion, back and forth motion or bumpy, each horse is as different as each rider. This is all taken into consideration when pairing rider to horse. Isnít this great? What a way to strengthen oneís inner core, tone muscles, align their posture, stretch rigid muscle, improve balance, eye and hand coordination, soothe the inner spirit, and to motivate one to go on.
Now letís add an activity into the setting. With every session the instructor focuses on teaching riding skills to the rider. Many times they do this with different activities and games. These experiences not only sharpen the riderís skills, but help the rider move towards set goals that address underlying problems. When you see one of these sessions taking place for the first time, you can recognize immediately what sets traditional therapy apart from therapeutic riding, that is you: hear laughter, see smiles, you see riders enjoying and loving what they are doing.

I am sure the benefits I have mentioned, are only a drop in the bucket. We will probably never know all the ways a horse can help. But, we do know that the therapeutic benefits are powerful, and can not be mimicked by anything man has designed.

Who can benefit from Therapeutic Riding?

  • Brain Injuries
  • Down Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy Do not want any page breaks, can you fix this as well
  • Attention Deficit
  • Behavior Disorders
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Mentally Impaired
  • Visually Impaired
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Autism
  • Rett Syndrome
  • Hearing Impaired
  • Amputations
  • Stroke victims
  • And many more


Before we get started I need to clear up the word Hippo. Hippo come from the from the Greek word hippos, which means horse. I hope this puts all your visions of using Hippotamusís for therapy to rest.

Simply said, Hippo-Therapy is where Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapist use the horseís movement as a treatment tool.

Let me Explain.

Hippo-Therapy is not like Therapeutic Riding. There is no riding lesson being taught to the rider. The therapist uses the beat of the horse to stimulate and develop the neuromuscular system of the rider. You see, the horse has this dynamic gait (walk) that mimicís the human walk. If one is sitting on a horse, and the horse was to walk, our bodies would move as if we were walking. Wow! Powerful Stuff!
  • The steady constant rhythmic beat of the horse can be modified by speeding up or slowing down the horse. Just like humans, horses have a sway to there walk, which makes the individual horse as unique as another. To much space here can seem to fix it.
  • In order to build a good foundation for therapy, the therapist will select the best horse for the job. The therapist plans fun and enjoyable activity, different positions and stretches that will challenge the rider, to meet their therapy goals. Itís fun! Riders love to come to the barn and visit their furry friends. A trust is formed, relationships are built and riders canít wait till their next visit. Horses take the labor out of therapy and miracles happen. Awesome!

Who can benefit from Hippo-Therapy?

There is a wide variety diagnoses that can benefit from Hippo-Therapy this list includes, but is not limited to.

  • Autism
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Developmental Delay
  • Sensory Integrative Dysfunction
  • Learning and Language Disabilities
  • Stroke Victims
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Genetic Disorders
  • Attention Deficit

What are the benefits of Hippo-Therapy?

  • Joint mobility
  • Balance
  • Muscle tone
  • Head and trunk control
  • Strength
  • Motor skills and coordination
  • Cardiovascular conditioning
  • Postural control
  • Symmetry
  • Sensory integration
  • Communication skills
  • Psychological, cognitive and behavioral functioning

Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy is using the presence of an animal to improve oneís physical, emotional, spiritual and social well- being.

Let me Explain.

For those who have pets certainly recognize the calming effects that animal have on you. You come home from a bad day at the office or school and the first one to greet you is Butch the dog, or Little Miss Kitty. Instantly their affection towards you melts your troubles away.
  • Animal Assisted Therapy is taking this same concept and bringing it into the professional arena.
  • Animal Assisted Therapy can be used by, nurses, social workers, teachers, counselors, physical, occupational and speech therapist. Therapy Animals can also be found in a number of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, mental heath facilities, schools, and libraries.
  • Animals used in therapy can be a wide range of domesticated pets, farm animals or even marine mammals. Such as: Dogs, cats, birds, goats, sheep, horses, pigs, dolphins, llamas, chickens, rabbits, gerbils, ducks, calves, and fish. Some animals are used more that others, but for the most part the animals use are easily domesticated.
  • Some of the key components animals bring to the professional field are their ability to relieve stress and anxiety. They are also great motivators and help bridge the gap between professional and client and help ease the awkwardness of expressing oneís emotions and talk therapy.
  • But, the one thing that all therapy animals have in common is they love you no matter what. Their eager to listen. They donít discriminate, judge or even bully. Their cares are basic, food, water and Love.

Who can benefit from Animal Assisted Therapy?

This list could be indefinite. You know the saying "just take a spoonful of sugar will help the medicine go down." Well the sugar is the animal and they help you to address problems that you may have, whether it is a physical, emotional, spiritual or social. They are right by your side to, inspire, listen and loving you all the way.

What are some of the benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy?

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Focus attention
  • Decrease need for pain medication
  • Build self-esteem
  • Increase trust
  • Build empathy
  • Relieve depression
  • Reduce risk for heart attack or stroke
  • Build motor skills
  • Self Control
  • Outlet to express affection
  • Anger management
  • Improve Social Skills
  • Enhance problem-solving skills

Animal Assisted Learning

Basically, Animal Assisted Learning is using animals to assist in a lesson plan.

Let me Explain.

First you identify what you want your student or students to learn. Then you build a curriculum that is focused around the environment of the barn, or outdoors. After that you add a horse and/or farm animals, along with some creativity and stand back and watch them learn. Great Stuff!
  • We do not all learn the same way; some learn by hearing, some learn by seeing and others learn by doing. The more senses you use while learning the more likely you will remember that lesson.
  • Pretty much everything you learn in the traditional classroom you can learn on the farm.
  • Animal Assisted Learning can be used to teach a wide rage of lessons whether it is general studies, social skills or life values. It can also help a wide range of students, whether they are unable to function or keep up with the traditional way of learning or defiant and refuse to do the work.
Whatever the situation, Animal Assisted Learning has many things to teach. It is an active, fun and leaves an impression on what is learned.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) or Therapy

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is using a horse as an active participant in a therapy session.

Let me Explain.

First off, with equine (horse) assisted psychotherapy the participant is 100% on the ground. There is no riding instruction or skills to learn. This therapy is quite different from animal assisted therapy. It has unique and incredible qualities.
  • Have you ever heard someone say donít get on that horse if you are nerves? Have you ever wondered why? This is because the horseís behavior will reflect the riderís emotions. Interesting fact is many times the horse can pick on participants emotions before they realize it themselves.
  • Equine assisted psychotherapy is part of a new and exciting field where professionals use the horse to help in the therapy process.
  • A team consisting of a licensed therapist and an equine specialist work together to help the participants identify problems and promote emotional growth.
  • At the beginning of the session the therapist will give the participant a task to do, which involves the horse. During this time the therapist evaluates the participant and the equine specialist evaluates the horseís behavior.
  • Then at the end of the session, the information that was gathered from the professionals is then processed along with the participant feelings, behaviors and thoughts that emerged during the session.
  • Participant discovers, identifies and realizes aspect about ones self, rather than being taught or lectured on their realizations.
  • EAP is an innovated way to help one develop and challenge inner growth. It takes the fear and deception out of the traditional therapy room.

Who can benefit from Equine Assisted Psychotherapy?

EAP can help with all sorts of mental health disorders as well as those who are struggling with social, emotional, behavioral and relationship problems.