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Therapeutic horse riding, also known as an Equine Assisted Activity, or " Adaptive Riding" or equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) is for individuals with a range of physical, emotional, cognitive, and social disabilities. There are several different kinds of programs that utilize horses and horse riding for recreational benefits. Equine Assisted Activities are especially targeted for persons with disabilities.
In an Equine Assisted Activities program, a certified or specially trained 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 teach companionship, responsibility, leadership, vocational, educational skills as well as offer competition venues in the different horse disciplines. 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 participate in for enhancing their lives which offer social and physical fitness as addressed in the Special Olympic programs for people with a cognitive disability. There are hundreds of programs around the world as well as many organizations dedicated to the various forms of horse 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 and 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.
'''History: The term "Therapeutic Riding" originally was used in Germany. This was to address orthopedic dysfunction for people,such as scoliosis. The physician would have a physiotherapist and a specially trained horse and instructor to address the strength and orthopedic dysfunction for a patient for one year. After a year the patient was discharged. The physiotherapist worked with the physician and the patient to attain the patient's goals and the instructor was responsible for the horse. In the USA: The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) accredits centers providing a variety of beneficial services to people with disabilities. NARHA categorizes these services into two general categories, Equine Assisted Activity and Equine Assisted Therapy. Equine Assisted Activities are those services provided by a trained professional focusing on recreational, leisure, sport or education. Examples of Equine Assisted Activities are: therapeutic horse back riding, carriage driving, vaulting and equine facilitated learning. These activities are guided by an educational or learning model. Skills are taught to riders, vaulters and students. The professional guiding the experience is a specially trained NARHA certified instructor. The professionals’ expertise provides them with training in specialized, adaptive teaching methods that allow people with a variety of disabilities to learn horsemanship skills and experience the equine environment.
Equine Assisted Therapy services are provided by licensed medical professionals. In order to provide Equine Assisted Therapy the professional providing the treatment does so within the scope of practice within their professional licensure and must have additional training in the Equine Assisted Therapy field. Examples of Equine Assisted Therapy include: Hippotherapy and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. These therapists provide treatment by the medical model. Treatment is provided to patients based on the professionals area of expertise and utilizes the horses’ movement or equine environment to meet the patients’ goals. The American Hippotherapy Association, Inc, (AHA) offers education to therapists and promotes research in Equine Assisted Therapy. The Faculty of the AHA, Inc., conduct Continuing Education Courses to teach PT's/PTA's/OT's/COTA's and SLP's nationally and internationally.
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- Federation of Riding for the Disabled International
- American Hippotherapy Association (AHA)
- North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA)
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