Physical – The horse’s movement has a dynamic affect on the rider’s body. The motion of the horse stimulates the rider’s pelvis and trunk in a manner that closely resembles the normal gait of a human walking. This input can produce specific physical changes in the rider’s body, including normalization of muscle tone, increased endurance, and improvements in posture, balance, and coordination.
Sensorial – The horse and the riding environment offer a wide variety of sensory integration experiences for participants. The movement of the horse provides valuable vestibular and proprioceptive input. The many sights and sounds, scents and tactile experiences encountered in the riding program all contribute to a multi-dimensional sensory experience that can have profound benefits for riders.
Emotional – The success of overcoming fear and anxiety, and the ability to achieve riding and other related skills help individuals to realize self-worth and increase self-esteem. The companion-animal bonding and development of new skills are all critical components to the success of the experience. Relationships develop between participants, volunteer, horses, and staff and are all an integral part of a positive, emotional experience.
Cognitive – Communicating with the horse provides a strong motivator for participants. Riding lessons incorporate activities and games on horseback designed to help attain specific goals such as following multi-step directions, staying on task, color, number and letter recognition, right/left identification/co-ordination, and reinforcing existing skills as well as learning new ones.
Social – Therapeutic riding programs and their associated activities provide an excellent opportunity for participants to interact with their peers, family members, program volunteers and staff in a positive and enjoyable environment.