Therapeutic horseback riding has numerous benefits for individuals with disabilities. Horseback riding is a great physical and mental stimulant, and it’s a fun and unique form of therapy.
Physical Therapeutic Benefits of Horseback Riding
Improving Motor Skills
The small muscle movements required in horseback riding improve the rider’s fine motor skills and manual dexterity. For example, handling essential horseback riding equipment such as the reins or even using a horse grooming brush can help improve the rider’s hand movements.
While riding a horse, the rider also uses large muscle groups. The act of riding itself helps improve gross motor skills as the rider rises and sits to accommodate the horse’s rhythm and uses the saddle and stirrups to mount and dismount the horse.
Improving Coordination and Balance
Horseback riding requires coordination and balance. For this reason, therapeutic horseback riding typically improves poor balance, which may be a symptom of certain disabilities. As the rider learns to stay on the horse and maintain proper posture, their muscles work together to help them maintain their balance. With time and practice, the rider’s ability to balance will increase during various horseback riding movements.
Social Therapeutic Benefits of Horseback Riding
Improving or Developing Social Skills
For individuals with disabilities that make social interaction difficult, building a bond with a horse during lessons can help them build social skills. A relationship with instructors further improves social skills over time due to the constant communication and trust needed in the learning process.
Psychological Therapeutic Benefits of Horseback riding
Improving Self Confidence
Some people with disabilities gain confidence by mastering a skill that may come more easily to other people. Controlling an animal such as a horse and developing the athletic ability to ride can be a great confidence builder. There are also plenty of opportunities to participate in shows and competitions, which can provide an even greater sense of achievement.
Improving Emotional Control
Horses have a mind of their own, and this free spirit forces riders to practice patience as they attempt to perform skills with their horse. The repetition of basic riding principles also helps an individual develop patience.
Riders quickly learn that emotions play a large role in safe horseback riding. Shouting, crying, and other loud displays of emotion can upset the horse, which may be scary for the rider. These experiences help the rider understand the importance of controlling their emotions.
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❤️ Patient & RN Advocate
🖥 Blogger/Freelance Writer
🏥 Urban Zen Integrative Therapist