Hippotherapy: Therapeutic Horseback Riding

By Donna M Warfield, Co-Executive DirectorCircle of Hope Therapeutic Riding, www.chtr.org Equine assisted therapeutic (hippotherapy) riding provides therapy to children and adults with disabilities including, but not limited to attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome and head trauma. Therapeutic riding is a special training program in which individuals with disabilities learn horse-riding skills. Medical doctors, physical therapists, educators, psychotherapists. and other professionals have come to recognize the numerous physical, psychological, and social benefits of riding therapy. Physical benefits can include improved balance, strength, coordination, and endurance.  Especially for the physically handicapped, the warmth and movement of the horse stimulates unused muscles. Individuals with emotional and developmental disabilities benefit in language development (there are stories of children who spoke their first words ever on horseback) and concentration.  In many children and adults, riding therapy can boost confidence and self-esteem and foster greater independence. Because learning riding skills provides multi-task learning, there can…