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Butterfly Dreams Farm Therapeutic Riding Program Inc.

Therapeutic Riding FAQ


What is therapeutic riding?
Therapeutic riding is the use of horses and horse-related activities in order to achieve goals that enhance
physical, emotional, social, cognitive, behavioral and educational skills for people with disabilities. It focuses
on therapeutic riding skills and the relationship between the horse and rider.
Where did therapeutic riding originate?
Horses have been therapeutic aids since the time of the ancient Greece, and documentation of the benefits of
therapeutic riding date back to the 17th century. Current therapeutic riding techniques began with Liz Hartel of
Denmark, whose legs were paralyzed with polio. She participated in therapeutic riding and then went on to win
the silver medal for dressage (training) in the 1952 Olympic Games. The first riding centers in North America
were established in the 1960s.
How exactly does therapeutic riding work?
Unlike exercise machines that only focus on one muscle group at a time, horseback riding allows the rider to
use the entire body to steer, control and adjust the horse while maintaining balance. Horses move in a rhythmic
motion that mimics the way a human moves when walking. The horses stride moves the riders pelvis in the
same rotation and side-to-side movement that occurs when walking, and the adjustable gait (seat) allows the
rider to continually adjust the horses speed to keep the desired pelvic motion. Together, the riding and adjusting
promotes strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and confidence.
What are the benefits of therapeutic riding?
Horseback riding and horse care can give children a sense of purpose, freedom and independence. There are
numerous benefits including, but not limited to: improved self-confidence, feelings of accomplishment,
improved concentration, improved listening and communication skills, improved sensory awareness,
development of empathy and patience, improved balance and motor and social skill development.
Is therapeutic riding safe?
Safety is a top priority of the program. All riders are required to wear regulation safety helmets and are
supervised at all times by either a spotter or one to two side-walkers, depending on their functioning ability.
Horses are matched to the riders ability level and are all thoroughly trained.

What kinds of horses are used for therapeutic riding?


Any type of breed or horse is eligible for the program, but we only use those that have great attitudes. Most of
our horses are older and have had other previous jobs. It is essential to have a calm horse with a steady rhythmic
pace.
Who teaches the therapeutic riding?
Therapeutic riding instructors go through a training program and are certified by PATH, the national
organization for therapeutic riding.
Are there age requirements for participation in therapeutic riding?
Children must be at least four years old to participate in therapeutic riding.