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Therapeutic Horse Riding Center
"What is Theraputic Riding"

Primary Objective:
To alleviate as much as possible the disability of
 the rider through a prescribed riding program.
Physical Benefits:
The horse's gait is very closely allied to that of man. When a rider sits on a horse and is completely relaxed, he/she can experience the alternating forward and downward movement of the horse as the horse drops one hip and then the other in an undulating movement.

The rider's pelvis is tilted forward, then straightened and rotated from side to side. This movement exercises both sides of the rider's body, simulating the ambulatory gait of man.  Those riders with one-sided paralysis (hemiplegia) are able to experience what it is like to move symmetrically rather than asymmetrically.
Other benefits include: vestibular stimulation; improved equilibrium responses leading to improved sitting, standing and walking balance; increased joint mobility allowing for greater flexibility; increased gross motor coordination and strength; relaxation of spastic muscles; improvement of reflex time; improved cardio-respiratory function; and increased body awareness.

The most dramatic improvements can be seen in the area of balance. Balance is a dynamic function that requires the constant adjustment of muscle tone and joint function in order to retain weight over one's base. The purpose of equilibrium reactions is to maintain and regain balance. The horse, then, becomes the human cerebellum, the unconscious part of the brain responsible for posture, balance, and coordination. The rider, in turn, must continually adjust his/her center of balance with that of the horse, facilitating equilibrium responses and balance.
The transfer of heat to the rider from the horse warms the musculature, the rhythmical movement of the horse walking stimulates the vestibular and joint receptors, facilitating relaxation and aiding in concentration. The feet, while in the stirrups, receive sensations of texture (hard/soft), temperature (hot/cold), and position (uphill/downhill).
*Source: Friends of handicapped Riders, Marion L. May, O.T.*

Psychological / Social Benefits:
The structure of the riding lesson provides a  routine-controlled situation. The student may be able to better organize his/herself as his/her body is confined on the horse. The rhythm and input is consistent and the horse's movement is organized, thus making it difficult for the student to resist. The student has less extraneous movement, and his motor behavior becomes more deliberate.
Many people with disabilities, especially the cognitively disabled, are often not able to take charge of their lives. Riding can offer them this experience. Giving the horse commands and having the horse follow through is an instantaneous reward. This ability of taking charge produces self-esteem and a sense of competence.
Contact with a large animal can have a profound effect on the disabled. Besides the animal/human bonding emotional experience, horses also provide a myriad of sensory experiences. In addition, riding gives the disabled person a sense of empowerment - of being equal - in that the ability to look down at and over many different things and other people when he/she is usually looking up from a wheelchair (confined to a limited view of the world) and opens up otherwise visually inaccessible spaces.
*Source: Friends of handicapped Riders, Marion L. May, O.T.*