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What is Therapeutic Riding?

Horseback riding, as a therapy, originated in Europe in the 1950’s. North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) was established in 1969 to promote, support and regulate the practice of therapeutic riding around the country. There are four primary fields of therapeutic riding, each with a different approach and focus. An integrated approach uses all four fields; however, each can be practiced as a specialty. The following summary is adapted from the NARHA handbook.

THERAPY: Equine activities are used as a form of therapy to achieve physical, psychological, cognitive, behavioral, and communication goals. The therapy is provided by a licensed/credentialed health professional.

EDUCATION: Equine activities are used to achieve psycho-educational goals for people with physical, mental and/or psychological impairments, as well as to provide the individuals with skills in the sport chosen. The horse is a strong motivator for accomplishing these goals.

SPORT: People with physical, mental and/or psychological impairments can participate in sports activities with the horse. These activities include riding, driving and vaulting as forms of recreation and competition. Activities are directed toward the acquisition of skills leading to the accomplishment of specific horsemanship goals.

RECREATION & LEISURE: People with physical, mental and/or psychological impairments may use equine activities as an enjoyable and relaxing experience that provides benefits in the areas of socialization, posture mobility and an overall improved quality of life.