Therapeutic 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
"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
The 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.
People 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.
Specialized 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.
Paid 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.