horse-locomotion 647x330Wikimedia Commons

Horse Ambulation Designed For Human Benefit

Rebekah L. Holt

For the advantage of understanding how horses can be used as a therapy strategy for people, therapists have studied horse ambulation. Remarkably, studies revealed that the average sized horse's movement and foot placement simulates the cadence and length of stride for humans.

The horse's cadence in steps/minute is also similar to an adult's cadence. The average adult walks at approximately 110-120 steps/minute and a large horse walks at a speed of 100-120 steps/minute."1

Horseback riding moves a rider's body as if they were walking. It provides a three dimensional, repetitive rhythmical motion to the rider's pelvis: rotational, medial/lateral and anterior/posterior. Such stimulation offers many equestrians health strengthening feedback for respiratory, circulation, muscular systems, etc. As anyone can attest that has tried it—riding a horse works the whole body!

Therapeutic Riding Instructors work to select horses with specific dominate movement as a suitable match for a rider's needs. Some horses walk, trot 320px-Therapeutic horseback riding 2Wikimedia Commonsor canter with greater lateral motion, while other horses naturally have predominant movement that increases a rider's pelvic rotational and/or anterior/posterior response. Such sequenced movement from the horse has proven to be a breakthrough for many special needs riders toward an improved quality of life. Apart from the physical health benefits, learning to ride a horse increases spatial awareness and has proven to enhance cognitive processing (just to name a few of the advantages!).

As Christians we should stop and recognize what a gift our Creator Jesus Christ has given us in the horse. For ambulatory or even able bodied people, we might be tempted to forget the blessing of walking or good health—until it is taken away from us. Even then, for some people, riding horses provides a way for freedom of motion and strengthening activity once again. Without the "match" that horse ambulation provides to humans, the movement could be detrimental, overwhelming and/or ineffective to our bodies. Yet, God in His infinite wisdom has created all things for His pleasure and our benefit. He supplies our needs. When Christ the Creator proclaimed His creation as "very good", He foreknew that after The Fall many humans living today would need a four legged helper until in His time all things might be made new (Rev. 21)!

Let's not forget to praise the Lord for His benevolence in designing horses with just the right stride and three dimensional motion to enrich (and strengthen) our lives.

Psalm 104:24
O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches.



1. Wheeler, Amy, "Hippotherapy as a Specific Treatment: A Review of Literature", Therapeutic Riding II Strategies for Rehabilitation, pg. 25, 1997