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Therapeutic Riding Instructor  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotTherapeutic riding therapists help people develop or regain mental, emotional and physical skills while experiencing the thrill of riding a horse. A bond develops between the rider and horse, as well as between the rider and the therapist.

"To be a good instructor, you must be a skilled horse person, have good safety practices, good people skills, a knowledge of disabilities, and be creative and passionate," says Maria Blackstone. She is a therapeutic riding instructor who founded her own clinic in Rhode Island.

Sue Klotzer works with the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association. She adds that you need "to be objective and to set goals for persons with special needs."

dotThe therapeutic benefits of horseback riding have been known for centuries. But centers dedicated to this type of therapy only began to appear in North America in the 1960s.

dotPeople who have a range of conditions can participate in and benefit from therapeutic riding. These conditions can include learning and emotional disabilities, brain and spinal cord injuries, and visual and hearing impairments.

Any program that offers riding as therapy is called a therapeutic riding program. But they don't all have the same level of medical sophistication. People who are therapeutic riding instructors do not have to be therapists.

dotSpecialized therapy provided by a professional therapist is called hippotherapy. That's from the Greek word "hippo" for horse.

"Classic hippotherapy" is carried out by a licensed therapist or speech pathologist who has relevant training. This type of therapy focuses on the physical responses between rider and horse.

"Hippotherapy" is the term for a multidisciplinary approach that involves treatment principles within the therapist's specialization. It seeks not only physical improvements, but also psychological and social ones.

dotPaid therapeutic riding instructors or therapists usually work a 40-hour week. But the work can include evenings and weekends.

If you are a center owner, operator or program director, your hours will be more intense.

At a Glance

Help people recover through bonding with a horse

  • Work can include evenings and weekends
  • People who have a range of conditions can participate in and benefit from therapeutic riding
  • Check with an association about getting certified