What is therapeutic horseback riding and is it therapy?

Therapeutic Riding is different from Hippotherapy.  We target riding skills as our first goal.  We strive to teach "Horsemanship" to our riders with special needs.  Hippotherapy is offered by a licensed therapist (Occupational, Physical, or Speech), specifically targeting a therapy goal, and is usually prescribed by a Physician.  It does not necessarily teach horseback riding or horsemanship skills, and rarely involves grooming and tacking of the horses.  So technically, therapeutic riding is not therapy.  However, therapeutic riding targets riding skills and the rider gains many benefits such as building muscle strength, eye hand coordination, fine and gross motor improvement, social skills, self confidence, and a fun outdoor recreational activity.  Riders are motivated to participate with of the horse interaction.   We have riders age 4 and older with a variety of life challenges.  Some of those challenges are Autism, Down Syndrome, developmental delays, ADD & ADHD, spinal defects, PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and many more.    We will design a therapeutic riding lesson to fit your rider and all of their needs.  Some riders have up to 3 assistants and some have none.  Our veterans are here as functioning adults and generally require no sidewalkers or horse leaders but gain confidence and overcome many symptoms of PTSD by bonding with the horses.  The horses are sentient beings and are able to give immediate response and reaction to built up tension and anger.  They naturally respond to the release of their energy and anxieties. 

What does a lesson look like?

Our lessons are designed to teach all aspects of horsemanship.  It starts with the rider choosing their helmet, horses grooming gear, and tack. The rider then participates in all aspects of grooming their horse and tacking up.  This gives them plenty of opportunity to use their hands, to perform brushing, buckles, clips, and lifting the saddle.  Our volunteers are encouraged to assist the rider but not to do the riders jobs for them.  That does not mean that the rider is not assisted if needed.  We want the experience to be for the rider not the volunteer.  Once the horse is tacked, the rider leads the horse to the arena where they mount their horse and have a riding lesson.  The lesson includes a riding skill as well as an activity that keeps the riding fresh and fun.  After the lesson, everyone returns to the grooming area and removes all tack and grooming is done again.  So as you can see these activities are a mirror image of activities necessary to prepare a horse for a typical riding lesson. 

When do we ride?

Loving Thunder is a year around program.  We recognize the need for consistency in our rider's lives.  So we ride year around.  Our sessions are scheduled with 6 weeks of riding and 2 weeks of break throughout the year (except Christmas when we take a full month for Christmas and New Years Holidays).  Normal holiday weekends are generally scheduled around since we know families like to have 3 day weekends too.  Our horses enjoy a little R & R during these short breaks.   Our team will provide a schedule for your rider.

Riding Schedule

Rider in the therapeutic riding program

Rider in the therapeutic riding program