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What is Therapeutic Riding?

Therapeutic Riding uses horseback riding lessons to provide physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits to people with disabilities.  In addition to mounted activities it may also involve riders in grooming, tacking, and caring for the horses.  Therapeutic Riding centers may teach any traditional riding discipline through individual or group lessons.  Standard tack can often be used but a wide range of adapted tack exists.  To maximize success and safety, therapeutic horseback riding should always be taught by a Certified Instructor.  More information can be found through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) at

What are the benefits of Therapeutic Riding?

Therapeutic Riding can provide many physical, emotional, and psychological benefits to riders. Among them:

The hip action of the horse closely mimics that of a human being and stimulates dormant nerves and muscles.

  • Learning to balance and maintain good posture on a constantly moving animal develops core strength

  • Learning to integrate hand movements and leg commands enhances coordination.

  • Riders feel stronger and more confident as they learn to master the horse.

  • The warmth of the horse’s body encourages relaxation of tight, rigid muscles reducing spasticity. 

  • Instructors weave important focus and decision making skills into the lessons.

  • Mastering an obstacle course helps develop processing skills.

  • Social skills are enhanced through interaction with volunteers, staff and fellow riders.

  • Having the opportunity to participate in a sport without being labeled as “different” gives riders a sense of normalcy.

  • Bonding with an animal as sensitive and as large as a horse can give riders deep personal and emotional satisfaction.

Who can benefit from Therapeutic Riding?

Children and adults with a wide range of disabilities can benefit from therapeutic riding.  In the interest of safety, potential riders for Special Equestrians must have a medical history and release complete by their physicians.   They then come for an evaluation during which we determine whether we have an appropriate class for them.

What is Hippotherapy?

Hippotherapy is physical, occupational, and/or language therapy that uses the movement of the horse to achieve therapeutic goals.  The goals in Hippotherapy are purely therapeutic; riding skills are not taught. 

Who owns the horses at Special Equestrians?

The horses used in our programs have either been donated or are on loan to Special Equestrians.  The one exception was Joe, the only horse we ever bought.  (And he was worth EVERY penny!)  Most have come from owners who no longer had enough time or were unable to ride their horses any more and wanted them to have meaningful work and be well cared for.  Others are older horses or ones that have sustained a mild injury that keeps them from doing the kind of activities their owners are interested in - such as jumping or doing distance or endurance trail riding.  As long as they are still sound and fit enough for the workload at Special Equestrians, we are happy to consider them for the program.  Each horse goes through a screening process and, if accepted into the program, comes initially on a 3-month trail basis.

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