Equine therapy has been around since around 500 BC when Hippocrates wrote at length about the therapeutic benefits of horseback riding for his patients. By the 19th century, German doctors were prescribing horseback riding to alleviate attacks of hysteria and hypochondria. In the 1960s, horseback riding had become a bonafide therapy tool and the North American Riding for Handicapped Association was born. This later became the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. Below you will find some of the health benefits of equine therapy, people it can help and where to Therapeutic Horseback Riding in the Virginia area.
Lowers Stress Level:
There are so many reasons why riding a horse lowers a person’s stress levels. You are outside in nature, a long known stress reliever. Riding a horse is a form of exercise which is known to reduce stress by increasing your endorphins and you are spending one on one time with an animal. Pets in general are known to lower stress and focusing care on another living creature takes you out of yourself and reduces your stress levels.
Improves Brain Function:
Riding a horse is not easy. No one just hops on a horse and rides. You have to learn an entirely new skill set, think on your feet and learn to communicate effectively with the horse that you are riding in order to problem-solve and overcome obstacles in your path. This process increases both memory and assertiveness as well as improves speech in riders.
Improves Physical Well Being:
Riding a horse is hard work. It is a full body workout that increases core strength making your abdominal and back muscles stronger. You must grip the horse’s body with your legs in order to remain on the horse and this action strengthens your legs. Moving with the motion of the horse while remaining upright improves your balance while directing your horse improves coordination. The rhythm of riding also improves circulation, flexibility and range of motion. Making horseback riding a full body workout.
Being able to guide and care for such large animals builds confidence and trust in yourself. Putting aside your fear of being hurt by a horse whether riding or while caring for them, empowers you to overcome fears in other areas of your life where you may be holding back due to the fear of the consequences. This allows you to get ahead of your fears and try new things.
Although anyone can benefit from Therapeutic Horseback riding, below are two groups that are frequently helped with equine therapy.
People with Disabilities:
Horseback riding creates a sense of pride and joy in people with disabilities. Their interaction with the horse is not about discipline or grading but about facing something completely foreign to them and reaching their own milestones. Allowing them to learn and meet challenges at their own pace increases a sense of confidence in their abilities.
Equine therapy calms veterans suffering from PTSD. Like veterans, horses are hyper vigilant and very aware of their surroundings at all times. This can be comforting for returning veterans who may feel that no one understands why they are “on” all the time and find it so hard to relax. Many of our returning veterans suffer with addictions. Working with horses requires patience and perseverance. Taking care of horses is not always a pleasant experience. These are lessons that will help those with addiction get and remain sober. As we saw above, the physical act of riding and caring for horses is hard work and helps Veterans weakened from addiction physically and/or physiologically regain their strength.
Virginia has horse farms in abundance and as of 2017 there were 9,974 farms in Virginia with horses or ponies, many of them with a wide variety of therapeutic riding programs. Some of the programs available are:
Equi – Kids Therapeutic Riding Program:
This organization is located in Virginia Beach and provides horseback riding lessons to those with physical and mental disabilities. The program’s goals are to improve the individuals’ strength, flexibility and fine motor skills, create a greater sense of self awareness and increase feelings of confidence, freedom and independence.
Charlottesville Area Riding Therapy:
CART is located in Crozet, Virginia just outside of Charlottesville. CART is open to adults and children with a wide range of needs. Their programs help to improve strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. Riding and caring for these large and intimidating animals help their riders overcome fear and increase self confidence and trust.
There are many benefits of riding and caring for horses. The time spent in nature, learning to care for another living creature, new skills and overcoming fear in order to build confidence. Virginia has an abundant amount of horse farms both to visit and purchase. Visit a Virginia horse farm in your local area today and find out for yourself how these beautiful animals can change your life. You may be inspired to purchase a horse farm of your very own.