Therapeutic Horseback Riding
by Kayli Hall
Esther says: “So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”” Today, horseback riding can mean even more than honor; it can help bring healing.In the book of Esther, the King honored Mordecai by having him led through the streets on horseback.
One way that horses declare the glory of God is through their amazing usefulness, especially in therapeutic horseback riding. We will be examining therapeutic horse back riding, its benefits, and its impact on the lives of many.
While it is reported that the ancient Greeks understood many health benefits of therapeutic riding, it was not until the 1940-60s in
The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International (
Although some riding centers do charge a small fee, most are 501.3(c) non-profit organizations which can often offer riding scholarships thanks to the funding of generous donors. 
In therapeutic riding lessons, a qualified and experienced instructor works with the rider. Often to accommodate the safety and needs of the student, special or adapted riding equipment is used. The right therapy horse must be matched to the rider’s requirements. When considering the horse’s suitability for a rider, instructors consider the horse’s length of stride, height, body width, temperament and training in order to provide the rider the most productive stimulation and safe therapeutic ride.
Now that we have examined what therapeutic horseback riding is and programs that are available, let’s take a look at the benefits horseback riding provides.
The horse’s motion moves the rider in a way similar to the human walk, thus improving flexibility, balance, posture and strength.  For those with cognitivechallenges, communication and speech often improves because the rider learns to communicate with the horse and the instructor. Learning the skills of controlling and riding a horse with a balanced seat, builds a rider’s confidence and offers a rewarding feeling of accomplishment. For those with physical disabilities, horseback riding provides an activity they can do without requiring a wheelchair or a cane. This leads to an increased sense of independence and ability. Additionally, developing a relationship with the horse helps riders to become more trusting and confident. 
Several specific disabilities can be improved by therapeutic riding, including autism, Multiple Sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. Children with Autism who participate in horseback riding are able to concentrate better and are less easily distracted.  Even more importantly, horseback riding has been shown to help those with Autism to improve speaking ability.  For those with Multiple Sclerosis, riding can improve mobility, balance, and coordination.  Horseback riding can help slow muscular dystrophy, as well as improve muscle control, strength, and coordination.  For people who have Cerebral Palsy, riding can improve the range of motion, flexibility, and posture.  Those who have Down Syndrome benefit through increased socialization skills, eye-hand coordination, and a healthy self image.  Other disabilities that can be improved by therapeutic riding include emotional disabilities, brain injuries, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and many other special challenges.
Having examined the benefits of horseback riding, let’s consider how these benefits have changed the lives of those involved in these programs.
Many people have experienced the benefits of therapeutic riding. Lori Hall, a rider with Multiple Sclerosis, stated that riding helps her to overcome day-to-day challenges. A 10-year old girl with Cerebral Palsy experienced improvements in posture from riding, and this worked more effectively than any of the other forms of therapy she had tried.  For Teddy Sargent, a child with Autism, it is said that riding improved his verbal skills and self-esteem.  Craig Coggins, a former Marine soldier wounded in
All these success stories show us that horses can be used for amazing things. This points back to our Creator. Isaiah 42:5 declares: “This is what God the LORD says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it”.
It is amazing that horses can be used to provide so many benefits and to change so many lives. This brings glory to God, for His creation has a purpose and can make a difference in peoples’ lives. Romans 1:20 says: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Horses, as part of God’s creation have revealed God’s love and mercy, through their positive impact on the lives of His people.
Scriptures taken from the New International Version
 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International. What is
 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International. Find a Center. <http://www.pathintl.org/path-intl-centers/find-center>
 Practical Horsemen. Olympian Inspired Therapeutic Riding. <http://www.equisearch.com/horses_riding_training/sports/therapeutic/eqhistory1654/>
 Larry Pence. Therapeutic Riding: Soldiers Helping Soldiers
 Joann Benjamin. Introduction to Hippotherapy. American Hippotherapy Association. Summer 2000. <http://www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org/hippotherapy/introduction-to-hippotherapy/>
 Equine Therapy. Horses Help the Disabled to Become Enabled.<http://www.equine-therapy-programs.com/horses-help-disabled-people.html>
 Margaret M. Bass, Catherine A. Duchown, Maria M. Llabre. The Effect of Therapeutic Horseback Riding on Social Functioning in Children with Autism.
 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International. EAAT Benefits. <http://www.pathintl.org/resources-education/resources/eaat/194-eaat-benefits>
 Strides Magazine. Multiple Sclerosis and Therapeutic Riding. April 1997. <http://horseplayriding.org/disability_articles/tr_ms.pdf>
 See ref. 9
 Strides Magazine. Cerebral Palsy and Therapeutic Riding. October 1995. <http://horseplayriding.org/disability_articles/tr_cp.pdf>
 See ref. 9
 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemen International. Learn About EAAT. <http://www.pathintl.org/resources-education/resources/eaat>
 David M. Adams. Therapy is a Horse Named Honey.
 Equine Therapy Programs. Mom and Son Find Help through Therapeutic Riding. <http://www.equine-therapy-programs.com/teddy-and-rebecca.html>
 See ref. 17
 See ref. 17