Horse therapy – training & forms of therapy

Whether in top-class sport, in leisure sport or in therapy - the areas of application of a horse in the 21st century are diverse. For thousands of years, humans have kept horses as pets, particularly for use in agriculture and for transporting goods. Looking back, you can see that the role of the horse in our society has changed significantly. Where you once saw a pure farm animal, you now see a partner for life. A particularly important area of ​​application for the horse is, among other things, the therapy of handicapped people. In this article you will find out exactly what makes a therapy horse and what forms of therapy there are


Which horse is suitable as a therapy horse?


The work of a therapy horse is associated with special working conditions. In principle, however, any horse that is willing to learn and open to humans could be used as a therapy horse. There is no such thing as a perfect age, size or even breed when choosing a therapy horse. The focus should be on the horse individually.

Nevertheless, a good therapy horse is characterized by a particularly good training and special characteristics in character, behavior and exterior . It scores with its calm and friendly nature and has strong nerves. Especially when working with people with multiple disabilities, it is necessary for the horse to remain as fearless as possible and be able to stand still. Indispensable for this: trust in people and an interest in working with people. This is the only way to build up an intact relationship with one another and guarantee successful work.


The conformation of the horse is then decisive if the therapist knows which patients should be treated with the help of the horse. It is important that the nature of human and horse fit together. Therapy ponies enable children, among other things, to work independently because they are not too big. However, if children, young people and adults are to sit on the back of a horse, sturdy small horses or larger ponies are particularly suitable.



The following horse breeds are often used for therapy: 

    §  Egyptian

    §  Aegidienberger

    §  Hanoverian

    §  Haflinger

Therapy horse training


The path of a therapy horse consists of years of intensive training. The basic prerequisite for successful learning is a well-balanced horse. The horse-friendly posture and the balance between work and relaxation play an important role here. As with every four-legged friend, the training is individual. There are currently no regulations regarding training or final examinations for therapy horses. However, the aim of the training should be to prepare the horse as a prey animal for working with people, whose actions should be patient and calmrequire. People with disabilities often move more slowly and unpredictably. In difficult situations, the horse must be able to be asked to stand still and remain fearless.


The path of Theraphy Horse consists of years of  intensive training

For a successful training as a therapy horse, the training should start with the basics: tying up, leading, grooming, etc. Since the contact with the horse at eye level already has a high added value for the patient, the encounters should be as positive and harmonious as possible. Before then a patient on horsebackrises, it should have learned how to carry and move its body. Therefore, training to become a riding horse is essential for every future therapy horse. Under an experienced rider, the horse first has to learn to balance itself over its back and to be able to walk in the various gaits, leaning against it and letting go. Only when the horse is secure in its own movement is it able to compensate for a patient's movement if the movement rhythm does not match. This prevents health problems in the horse and supports the successful therapy of the patient by means of the intact horse movement. After training to become a riding horse, the horse can then be further trained for its future special tasks.


The following training units are available to prepare a horse for working with people with disabilities :


    §  Floor training (staying still, walking further, stepping back)

    §  Serenity training (confrontation with different stimuli)

    §  Lung work (communicate using body language, train gaits)

    §  Riding training (promoting gaits from the back, in the field, in the hall or on the square)

Always keep in mind: The training is an ongoing process, which is to be promoted through your own measures or correction training.

Important! In addition to species-appropriate husbandry and feeding, it is really important that your horse undergoes varied training and that you offer him enough free time and relaxation as a balance. Regular appointments with a farrier and an osteopath will help keep your horse healthy. Only a healthy and balanced horse is a horse willing to learn!


The specialties of therapeutic riding


The horse is a highly sensitive creature that can sense even the smallest changes in its environment. With the help of their keen sense of smell, horses notice how we feel and when something is bothering us. For many people, the mere contact at eye level with the horse is enough to perceive an improved mood of the psyche . Added to this is the positive influence of riding on people. In many cases, riding a horse promotes body awareness and improves the rider's self-awareness.


The training to become a theraphy horse is individual for each horse, as there are no special regulations or tests in this regard

Equestrian therapy and working with the horse require a variety of senses, which ultimately contribute to the therapy of the mental and physical condition. Accordingly, the idea of ​​therapeutic riding is that the healing effect of the horse should promote sick and disabled people of all ages. Depending on the area in which the patient needs treatment, a different form of therapy is used. Here we have listed the best known for you:


1.   The remedial riding


The aim of therapeutic horseback riding is the personal and social development of the patient. The work with, on and on the horse should strengthen the relationship with the animal. This form of therapy not only focuses on riding, but also on caring for, leading and caring for the horse. Furthermore, the handling and communication skills with other fellow human beings are promoted here.


2.   Curative vaulting

The aim of curative vaulting is to reduce or completely solve individual problems. When vaulting , the horse is put on the lunge. Meanwhile, the patient carries out gymnastic exercises on and next to the horse and can thereby improve his sense of dexterity. While riding, the movement of the horse is transferred to the rider's body, which relaxes the muscles and takes away the fear of the patient.


3. Hippotherapy

Hippotherapy is a kind of physiotherapy – only on horseback. This form of therapy can be used, among other things, to treat disorders in the patient's motor function. Hippotherapy is also used to treat movement restrictions and physical development problems caused by illness. The movement of the horse helps to mobilize, sensitize and realign the human body. Ultimately, the patient's body awareness should be improved and the muscles and bone structure should be strengthened.


4. Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy is a branch of hippotherapy. The aim of this form of therapy is to improve people's quality of life . Through working with the horse, the patient should learn improved self-determination and independence , which should make it easier to master everyday life. Occupational therapy with the medium horse focuses on the areas of perception, behavior and motor skills.

5. The integrative riding.

In integrative riding, the focus is on the psyche of the patient. People with a wide variety of disabilities should find joy in physical exercise through horseback riding and feel equal to all other people. With the help of this therapy, the patient should be integrated into the community and develop fun in dealing with horses and people. The integrative horseback riding serves the handicapped people as a leisure activity, but can also be practiced within the framework of tournament sport.


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