Learning to live with a disability can be difficult. People with cognitive, physical and/or emotion conditions often suffer from depression as a result. One method of helping them to deal with their condition is equine assisted therapy, also known as therapeutic riding or hippotherapy.
The main activity is teaching the person how to ride a horse. This is a fun social activity for people of all ages. The patients are taught riding skills, but they also get a great deal more out of the program. For example, in Texas drug rehab programs using Equine Assisted Therpay, you learn responsibility, plus you’re put in a situation where you and the animal must work together with mutual trust. Certified instructors teach hippotherapy in hundreds of programs and organizations around the world.
Learning to interact with the horse and build a relationship is a rewarding process, and the patients feel a sense of accomplishment as they successfully take on the intricacies of horseback riding. This is useful, as some persons with mental or emotional disabilities may be uncomfortable with social interaction; dealing with an animal is often easier for them than dealing with people. Therapeutic horseback riding has been shown to assist with the treatment of autism in children – it improves their communication, motor and social skills. The use of voice commands with the animals helps improve speech, while guiding the reins to move the horse is good for motor skills. Often, activities and games will be played on horseback to further improve motor skills, such as catching or retrieving objects while riding.
Although it may sound risky, equine assisted therapy is actually very safe. The horses are led by the instructor and so there are always people walking beside the patient while he or she is on the horse. Also, the horses are matched to the riders’ ability level. Every precaution is taken to ensure the well-being of the riders. In hippotherapy, the horse actually influences the rider, rather than the other way around. The analyst observes the client and adjusts the treatment based on his or her responses.
There are many organizations and programs in all areas that offer equine assisted therapy. If you are interested in learning more, you can check online or look in your phone directory for such a group in your area. Or you can speak with a doctor or therapist and see what programs are available. It’s a fun way to get help while learning a new skill.