Equine Assisted Activities is a broad term that describes Therapeutic Horseback Riding and/or Equine Therapy. Equine Therapy is for individuals with a range of physical, emotional, cognitive, and social disabilities. There are several different kinds of programs that utilize horses and horseback riding for recreational benefits. Equine Assisted Activities are especially targeted for children with disabilities. However, these activities can be offered to people with disabilities of all ages.
In an Equine Assisted Activities program, a certified riding instructor is teaching a person with a disability how to ride a horse. However, the environment of the horse can provide more than just riding skills. The programs which offer the equine environment to people with disabilities can learn companionship, responsibility, leadership, vocational, educational skills as well as offer competition venues in the different horse disaplines. Riding a horse provides a unique and often profound recreational or leisure activity for many people. There are many sports which people who have disabilities can participant in for enhancing their lives which offer social and physical fitness as addressed in the Special Olympic programs for people with a cognative disability. There are hundreds of programs around the world as well as many organizations dedicated to the various forms of horseback riding or horse care which address many other disabilities and may not have a cognitive disability.
The student who interacts with their horse may extend this to others to form meaningful relationships with people. Building a relationship with an animal is very rewarding in many aspects; for a person with an emotional, social or psychological disability, the trust and loyalty of an animal demonstrates to the student how important they are and then they may extend these attributes to personal relationships. Horses also help people feel in control of their situation because there is a direct correlation between action and reaction. To learn how to care for and ride a horse, a student must also be able to communicate efficiently with the horse and the instructor. In this way, riding is a very social activity, but is less daunting to people who are uncomfortable in social situations. However, the experience of riding a horse is very different. Riding helps to empower people and enables them to connect on a personal level. The sometimes unpredictable nature of animals and situations also creates a real-life environment in which students will be able to confront fears and make adjustments to situations beyond their control.” (Wikipedia).
Some examples of Equine Assisted Activities include Horseback Riding, Carriage Driving, Vaulting, and Equine Facilitated Learning
The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), www.narha.org is the organization that provides accreditation to centers giving benefits and services to people with disabilities. They also provide the ongoing education and certification to Therapeutic Riding Instructors. The American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) offers education to therapists and promotes extensive research in Equine Assisted Activities.
Equine Assisted Therapy is provided by licensed medical professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists and Psychotherapists. This includes Hippotherapy (The medical use of a horse) and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (incorporating horses experientially for a person’s emotional growth and learning).
When medical professionals, parents and horse professionals come together to help persons with disabilities, the results can be amazing. This blog will chronicle my own adventures as well as highlight the amazing people and horses that give their talents and time to this profession.