Adaptive Riding, formerly known as Therapeutic riding is recreational horseback riding lessons for individuals with special needs. Riders learn horsemanship and riding skills tailored to their individual needs and learning styles. From someone’s first contact with a horse to advanced independent riders, riders of all skill levels can enjoy adaptive riding. The goals for those in the adaptive riding program are riding-skill-based, but individuals and parents often report many benefits of participation. These benefits include improvements in physical strength, balance, coordination, mobility, self-confidence, self-control, peer interaction, and social skills.
Adaptive riding lessons are usually taught by PATH International certified instructors who create a wide variety of games and exercises designed to meet each student’s needs. Lesson plans take into account the rider’s physical, emotional, mental strengths and limitations. Classes can include arena riding, trail rides, group activities, and even competitions such as the Special Olympics. With the combination of a trusted horse, instructor, and group of volunteers, riders become more willing to try new things and attain new goals.
How Adaptive Riding Works
A horse’s soothing rhythm, strength, warmth, and three-dimensional movement pattern provide healthy exercise while improving circulation and muscle tone. The discipline associated with working with horses and the social interactions between peers benefits the mind and spirit while raising self-esteem and increasing self-sufficiency through accomplishment. The unconditional love of the horses has been proved to reduce anxiety, encourage interaction, and offer a haven where riders can feel a sense of empowerment.
Riders who may benefit represent over 100 diagnoses and many have multiple diagnoses. Common diagnoses include, but are not limited to:
- Autism Developmental delay or disability
- ADD/ADHD Learning disability
- Cerebral Palsy
- Down syndrome
- Emotional, behavioral, or mental health issue
- Head trauma/brain injury
- Hearing impairment
- Visual impairment
- Genetic conditions/disorders
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Intellectual disability
- Youth identified as “at-risk”
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Spina Bifida
- Spinal cord injury
- Orthopedic disorder