Equine-Assisted Therapy Options for Special Needs Children

Parents of children with special needs are bombarded with an overwhelming array of therapies and activities. Just sorting through the options can be overwhelming! Even within the realm of equine-assisted activities, there are a broad range of options. Here’s a simple overview to help make sense of the choices.

Therapeutic Riding
Also referred to as adaptive riding, therapeutic riding is designed to teach riding skills. Interactive lesson plans are tailored to the needs of the child. Learning to ride inherently involves working on skills such as core strength, balance, coordination, following directions, and sequencing. Interaction with the horse, instructor, and volunteers offers space to practice social skills and develop meaningful relationships. And the confidence gained from directing the movements of a 1200 pound animal is incredible.

Hippotherapy is a medical treatment strategy used by physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists. They use the horse’s movement as part of an integrated treatment plan to achieve functional outcomes. Horses have a unique three-dimensional movement that simulates that of the human gait.

Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy
Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy incorporates horses experientially for emotional growth and learning. It is a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional working with the child and horses to address treatment goals. EFP is experiential in nature. This means that children learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing feelings, behaviors, and patterns.

Equine-Facilitated Learning
Equine-Facilitated Learning is an educational model whereby children are able to learn communication and life skills through interacting with and caring for horses. This provides tremendous opportunity to learn about commitment, work ethic, non-verbal communication, and other life skills, as well as experiencing gains in confidence and self-esteem. Goals are tailored to the needs and expectations of the child and may incorporate other areas as appropriate.

Great and Small offers year-round therapeutic riding and speech-language therapy utilizing hippotherapy, as well as summer camps incorporating both therapeutic riding and hippotherapy. EFP and EFL are coming soon! For more information visit www.greatandsmallride.org or contact Program Director Megan Ferry at 301-349-0075 or mferry@greatandsmallride.org.