Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy

volunteers with Lizzy's lesson (2)

Therapeutic Riding Under The Dome
Therapeutic Riding
Under The Dome

Verde View Equestrian Center, offers Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies, 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.


Differences Therapeutic Riding Hippotherapy
The Horse
  • ¬†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
The Rider
  • 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 Instructor
  • 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
The Volunteers
  • 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
The Equipment
  • 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