Therapeutic riding originated in the 1950’s when a rider with polio, Liz Hartel of Denmark, participated in the Olympic Games in dressage. This started the idea that people with disabilities could ride horses. Later came the idea that riding horses might be beneficial to people with disabilities in more ways than just being fun.
As a horse walks the rider is moved forward and back, side to side and the pelvis is rotated. These movements are similar to the human gait, and improves muscle tone, balance, posture and coordination. Riders benefit from improved motor planning (thinking and planning movements or arms, hands, legs and body to get the horse to walk, stop or turn). If a rider is not normally vocal the experience of riding, especially at a trot, can elicit squeals of excitement.
Other than physical and cognitive benefits, therapeutic riding gives riders the chance to get out and socialize with others, and participate in activities where they are considered equal with those without disabilities.
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