Therapeutic Horseback Riding
by Kayli Hall
In the book of Esther, the King honored Mordecai by having him led through the streets on horseback. Esther says: “So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”” Today, horseback riding can mean even more than honor; it can help bring healing.
One way that horses declare the glory of God is through their amazing usefulness, especially in therapeutic horseback riding. We will be examining therapeutic horse back riding, its benefits, and its impact on the lives of many.
While it is
reported that the ancient Greeks understood many health benefits of
riding, it was not until the 1940-60s in
Association of Therapeutic Horsemen
Although some riding centers do charge a small fee, most are 501.3(c) non-profit organizations which can often offer riding scholarships thanks to the funding of generous donors.
In therapeutic riding lessons, a qualified and experienced instructor works with the rider. Often to accommodate the safety and needs of the student, special or adapted riding equipment is used. The right therapy horse must be matched to the rider’s requirements. When considering the horse’s suitability for a rider, instructors consider the horse’s length of stride, height, body width, temperament and training in order to provide the rider the most productive stimulation and safe therapeutic ride.
Now that we have examined what therapeutic horseback riding is and programs that are available, let’s take a look at the benefits horseback riding provides.
The horse’s motion moves the rider in a way similar to the human walk, thus improving flexibility, balance, posture and strength. For those with cognitivechallenges, communication and speech often improves because the rider learns to communicate with the horse and the instructor. Learning the skills of controlling and riding a horse with a balanced seat, builds a rider’s confidence and offers a rewarding feeling of accomplishment. For those with physical disabilities, horseback riding provides an activity they can do without requiring a wheelchair or a cane. This leads to an increased sense of independence and ability. Additionally, developing a relationship with the horse helps riders to become more trusting and confident.
Several specific disabilities can be improved by therapeutic riding, including autism, Multiple Sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. Children with Autism who participate in horseback riding are able to concentrate better and are less easily distracted. Even more importantly, horseback riding has been shown to help those with Autism to improve speaking ability. For those with Multiple Sclerosis, riding can improve mobility, balance, and coordination. Horseback riding can help slow muscular dystrophy, as well as improve muscle control, strength, and coordination. For people who have Cerebral Palsy, riding can improve the range of motion, flexibility, and posture. Those who have Down Syndrome benefit through increased socialization skills, eye-hand coordination, and a healthy self image. Other disabilities that can be improved by therapeutic riding include emotional disabilities, brain injuries, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and many other special challenges.
Having examined the benefits of horseback riding, let’s consider how these benefits have changed the lives of those involved in these programs.
have experienced the benefits of therapeutic riding.
Lori Hall, a rider with Multiple Sclerosis,
stated that riding helps her to overcome day-to-day challenges.
10-year old girl with Cerebral Palsy experienced improvements in
riding, and this worked more effectively than
any of the other forms of therapy
she had tried. For Teddy Sargent, a child
with Autism, it is
said that riding improved his verbal skills and self-esteem. Craig Coggins, a former
All these success stories show us that horses can be used for amazing things. This points back to our Creator. Isaiah 42:5 declares: “This is what God the LORD says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it”.
It is amazing that horses can be used to provide so many benefits and to change so many lives. This brings glory to God, for His creation has a purpose and can make a difference in peoples’ lives. Romans 1:20 says: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Horses, as part of God’s creation have revealed God’s love and mercy, through their positive impact on the lives of His people.
Scriptures taken from the New International Version
Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International. What is
Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International. Find a Center. <http://www.pathintl.org/path-intl-centers/find-center>
Practical Horsemen. Olympian Inspired
Therapeutic Riding. <http://www.equisearch.com/horses_riding_training/sports/therapeutic/eqhistory1654/>
 Larry Pence. Therapeutic Riding: Soldiers Helping Soldiers
Benjamin. Introduction to Hippotherapy. American Hippotherapy
Therapy. Horses Help the Disabled to
Become Enabled. <http://www.equine-therapy-programs.com/horses-help-disabled-people.html>
M. Bass, Catherine A. Duchown, Maria M. Llabre. The
Effect of Therapeutic Horseback Riding on Social Functioning in
Children with Autism.
Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International. EAAT Benefits. <http://www.pathintl.org/resources-education/resources/eaat/194-eaat-benefits>
Magazine. Multiple Sclerosis and
Therapeutic Riding. April 1997. <http://horseplayriding.org/disability_articles/tr_ms.pdf>
 See ref. 9
Magazine. Cerebral Palsy and Therapeutic
Riding. October 1995. <http://horseplayriding.org/disability_articles/tr_cp.pdf>
 See ref. 9
Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International. Learn About EAAT. <http://www.pathintl.org/resources-education/resources/eaat>
 David M. Adams. Therapy is a Horse Named Honey.
Therapy Programs. Mom and Son Find Help
through Therapeutic Riding. <http://www.equine-therapy-programs.com/teddy-and-rebecca.html>
 See ref. 17
 See ref. 17
About the Authoress:
Kayli Hall is a fifteen
year old Texas homeschooler. Her favorite
subjects in school are Science
and History. She
enjoys reading and playing
with her cat in her spare time. Kayli
has always loved swimming and running. She
is actively involved in a Speech and Debate club and
enjoys going to tournaments to compete in these events.
Kayli writes, "Ever since I was little, I have
forward to petting and riding horses that my Granddad raises in
Kayli Hall's article, "Therapeutic Horseback Riding" was the winning article for the 2011 eQuest For Truth Youth Writer's Contest with the theme "Equus--Declaring the Glory of God". Kayli won a 8" x 10" custom framed photograph by Rebekah L. Holt, eQuest Photography, the 3 part DVD series, Creation Proclaims, an audio Bible on CD by Alexander Scourby and the article's publication on eQuest For Truth website.
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