Therapeutic Riding

Great Strides provides instructors certified with PATH International, the world-wide standard-setting organization for therapeutic horseback riding. These instructors work with specially selected horses to give children and adults with special needs, the safest and most valuable lesson possible. While this is a recreational riding program, students come away with many therapeutic benefits - builds core, arm and leg strength. Develops the ability to focus and follow direction as well as self-confidence and emotional strength.

Lessons are typically scheduled on a weekly basis, although we do have students who ride more often.  Whenever possible, scheduling is done around the student’s needs. Students give us their day/time frame preferences and we will assign an appropriate instructor who can work with your scheduling needs.

Please note: while most lessons consist of riding, Great Strides will schedule some lessons when the student will work on grooming and learning about horses. This will be done at our discretion. It is important that students learn a little about care-giving of the horses that do so much for them.

Rates:

30-minute private:  $   50 paid on a lesson by lesson basis
                                 $ 180 package of 4 lessons paid prior to first lesson

 

45-minute private:  $   65 paid on a lesson by lesson basis
                                 $ 235 package of 4 lessons paid prior to first lesson

 

60-minute private:   $   75 paid on a lesson by lesson basis
                                  $  270 package of 4 lessons paid prior to first lesson

 

PLEASE NOTE: Cancellations must be made with at least 24-hours notice. If student’s do not give 24-hours notice, the lesson must be paid for. Scholarship students must pay a $25 cancellation fee.

Advantages of Therapeutic Riding

Physical

Therapeutic riding can be beneficial to almost anyone with any kind of special needs. The most obvious and often the most immediately recognizable benefit is physical. Because riding is a very physical activity, children and adults with special physical needs and various physical impairments can benefit from riding. Just like physical and occupational therapy, horseback riding uses movement as a primary means of therapy. However, because the act of riding a horse is so unique, many people feel that riding, combined with other therapies has a great effect on students because it fills a niche in the therapeutic needs of the individual that other therapies can't. Instructors employ a variety of physical tasks that help improve balance, muscle strength, flexibility, joint movement, and posture. Therapeutic riding can benefit people with many different physical disabilities, including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, amputation, paralysis, spina bifida, etc.


Balance and Posture  

Because horseback riding requires balance and good posture for all riders, students lacking good balance and posture will be working on their balance issues from the very moment they mount. The motion of the horse is very similar to the motion created in the human pelvis. The exercise of riding grounds the rider in his or her hips. This connection between horse and rider is a fundamental element in building balance in riders with and without special needs. Instructors often employ various exercises and riding skills that work on balance and posture in multiple ways. Because therapeutic riding is fundamentally flexible to the student's needs, balance exercises are quite varied. Exercises can range from simply sitting atop the horse, to walking, to trotting. Instructors working on balance and posture with a student may also use exercises such as grabbing rings while riding, riding with arms stretched out, riding with the eyes closed, riding backwards, etc. The combination of supporting as well as challenging the rider enables the rider to improve their physical capabilities both on and off their mount.


Muscles and Joints

The movement of the horse also requires good muscle tone and flexibility. The most obvious muscle regions that benefit from such exercise are the back, buttocks and legs, as well as the ankles, knees and hips. Riding also affects smaller muscles and joints throughout the body as riding is an activity that requires the participation of the entire body. Riders with low‑tone muscle and loose flexibility will work on strengthening and tightening the muscles primarily in the back, neck, buttocks and leg regions. Riders with very high muscle tone work on relaxing the muscle and moving with the gait of the horse. 

The different gaits of the horse can be used to make the student aware of different muscle groups. As the rider learns different riding skills, muscle tone and flexibility are increasingly improved. The flexibility of equine‑assisted therapy enables riders with very different needs to benefit from the same motion while learning the same skills.


Cognitive and Sensory

People with various cognitive and sensory disabilities can be treated with riding. Some such disorders include: mental retardation, autism, brain damage, Down Syndrome, developmental disorders, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, learning disabilities etc. Riding requires attention, reasoning skills and memory. Because therapy and riding both build knowledge as time progresses, simple tasks grow into complex skills that provide the rider with intellectual stimulation. Riding incorporates a lot of information into a fairly small amount of time. In a session (which varies depending on the student and the program) an individual is asked to both interpret sensory information they are receiving from the horse, instructor, environment, etc., and use this information in a manner that is appropriate for learning riding skills. The motion, feel, smell, sound and sight of a horse is a lot to absorb; however, lessons can be simplified to focus only on this sensory information, giving the student time to process this information. Higher‑functioning riders can use riding skills and tasks given by instructors to help integrate this sensory information in a way that makes sense to the individual student. Riding is both relaxing and demanding for students of all cognitive abilities, depending on the focus of the lesson. (See Equine‑Facilitated Mental Health Association ‑ EFMHA ‑ a section of PATH International, Inc. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, Inc.) 


Emotional, Social and Psychological

Individuals with emotional, social and psychological disabilities all benefit in similar ways. Riding helps the student interact with others and to form meaningful relationships with horses and people. Building a relationship with an animal is very rewarding in many aspects; for a person with an emotional, social or psychological disability, the trust and loyalty an animal shows for people demonstrates to the student how important these attributes are in personal relationships. Horses also help people feel in control of their situation because there is a direct correlation between action and reaction. To learn how to care for and ride a horse, a student must also be able to communicate efficiently with the horse and the instructor. In this way, riding is a very social activity, but is less daunting to people who are uncomfortable in social situations. These aspects of the riding experience are very similar to most of animal‑assisted therapy. However, the experience of riding a horse is very different. Riding helps to empower people and enables them to connect on a personal level. The sometimes unpredictable nature of animals and situations also creates a real‑life environment in which students will be able to confront fears and make adjustments to situations beyond their control.