Updated: Jan 6, 2022
WHAT IS IT?
Therapeutic riding, previously known as equine therapy, is a method of treatment that primarily focuses on the factors which
connect the behaviors of a horse to an individual. The therapy is primarily used to treat
disorders and issues related to mental health. This treatment is mainly based on the fact
that the behavioral responses of horses and human beings are similar in a lot of ways,
especially in terms of social and responsive behaviors. Equine-assisted therapies are
being more acknowledged by medical and mental health experts all around the world. A
variety of forms of equine therapy exist which include: Equine facilitated psychotherapy
(EFP), Equine facilitated learning (EFL), and Hippotherapy.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
The direct and indirect implementations of therapeutic riding date back to the time of the
ancient Greeks. As a matter of fact, horseback riding could be seen as a widely-known form
of therapy from the 1950s. Despite the availability of other animals for riding, horses were
the most popular for these purposes. In fact, it is said that the reflection of the rider’s
behavior and characteristics can be seen in the horse itself. Apart from this, maintaining
stability while riding a horse required postural changes and awareness from the rider’s
part that is said to subsequently sharpen the riders’ sense of direction, strength and
resilience. A variety of other features besides the ones mentioned above paved the way for
the rising popularity of therapeutic riding over the years.
STATISTICS AND APPLICATIONS
A significant proportion of individuals taking therapeutic riding are aged between 6-18. This is
particularly because the trouble children have while talking about how they feel and the
difficulty surrounding them having to process certain situations and hurtful emotions. According to a study conducted by the PEACE Ranch and the Veterans Administration, 72%
of the individuals who suffer PTSD and MST (military sexual trauma) undergoing equine
therapy have self-reported an improvement in their symptoms.
As a matter of fact, engagement and interaction with horses have often assisted individuals
in terms of getting a better grip on overcoming certain emotions and behaviors. It also
enables them to get more adept at seeking newer solutions to problems particularly via
empathy. To be more specific, equine therapy is reportedly said to help individuals enter a
state of alpha meditation.
Therapeutic riding can be used in the treatment of several psychological and
cognitive-behavioral disorders, namely: autism, developmental delay/disability,
ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, speech impairments. Certain groups of individuals have
found equine therapy particularly beneficial. These include at-risk youth, eating disorder
sufferers and violence and sexual trauma survivors.
Other applications of therapeutic riding can be seen in terms of effectively helping particularly
teens and adults in coping with trauma, anxiety, depression, PTSD.
This therapy’s popularity is a key indicator of its effectiveness and numerous benefits.
Undoubtedly, different therapies work for different individuals and it is difficult to tell
which one would be suitable for whom until individuals are trying it themselves. Hence, it
is very important for individuals to be open-minded about different therapies before
jumping to conclusions and holding skeptics against the whole idea of therapy.