Verde View Equestrian Center, a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) center, offers both therapeutic riding and hippotherapy. At 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.
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.
Hippotherapy is a treatment that uses the multidimensional movement of the horse. The name comes from the Greek work “Hippos” which means horse. Specifically trained physical, occupational and speech therapists use this medical treatment for clients who have movement dysfunction. Hippotherapy uses activities on the horse that are meaningful to the client. Specific riding skills are not taught (as in therapeutic riding), but rather a foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing. This foundation can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities. Physically, Hippotherapy can improve balance, posture, mobility and function. Hippotherapy may also affect psychological, cognitive, behavioral and communication functions for riders of all ages.
Why the Horse?
The horses’ walk provides sensory input through movement which is variable, rhythmic and repetitive. Riders respond to this enjoyable learning experience in a natural setting.
Used in a variety of gaits
Chosen to meet the students needs to achieve a specific riding and/or social goal
May be walked, trotted, and even cantered
Chosen because of its build, movement, and training
Can be lead by a leader or controlled independently by the rider
Specifically chosen for its unique movement qualities
Mostly used at a walk and usually has a leader responsible for controlling the horse
In most cases, the client does not control or steer the horse
Usually has enough sitting balance and head control to sit in a forward position on the horse
Compensations for the student are usually made to enable the student to effectively control the horse or to perform specific riding skills
The instructor uses various teaching techniques to achieve specific riding goals and/or skills
Usually more involved and may not have enough control of their head or trunk to sit forward
Alternative or developmental positioning may be utilized
The rider is manipulated or facilitated by the therapist in order to utilize specific muscles in order to achieve a specific therapy goal
The therapist utilizes various treatment techniques in conjunction with the movement of the horse
The therapeutic riding instructor is in charge of the lesson
They establish the riding skills and goals to be achieved
Document the rider’s progress
In charge of the entire lesson (including volunteers, horses, clients, and sidewalkers)
The therapist is in control of the session and of the client at all times
May consult with a therapeutic riding instructor on equipment use and fit or choice of mounts
Utilizes volunteers as leaders and sidewalkers
Sidewalkers are trained on how to safely keep the student on the horse
Leaders are trained on how to effectively and safely lead a horse
These volunteers are trained and supervised by the instructor
The volunteers job during the riding lesson is to keep the rider safe before, during, and after the lesson
Utilizes volunteers who sidewalk to assist in the manipulation of the client on top of the horse and strategic placement of their hands in order to facilitate or inhibit a specific response
The therapist constantly and directly instructs the volunteer at all times
Utilize various pieces of equipment including: saddles, bridles, surcingles, and reins
The purpose of the equipment is to provide stability to the student and to enhance their ability to control the horse in order to achieve specific riding skills and goals
Generally use more pads and surcingles, allowing for the position to change
The purpose of the equipment is to allow the movement of the horse and client positioning to assist the therapist when using various therapy techniques to achieve a specific therapy goal