The therapeutic value of horse riding for people with disabilities was well known to the Greeks as early as the 5th Century B.C. Historians quote Hippocrates as saying, "Riding in clean air strengthens body muscles and keeps them in good form".

In 1952, Danish Liz Hartel won the silver medal for Dressage in the Helsinki Olympic Games while suffering from partial paralysis of both her lower limbs, caused by Polyomelitis; thus becoming the inspiration for the establishment of the first therapeutic riding centres in the U.K. and Scandinavia.

Riding for the Disabled Association 

Riding for the Disabled (RDA) provides therapeutic interactions with horses in order to develop increased ability and self esteem for children & adults with physical and/or intellectual disabilities.
RDA Centres provide suitable horses, trained volunteer helpers, accredited RDA coaches, riding and safety equipment to run a range of equestrian activities including:
  • Structured Riding Classes
  • Recreational Horse riding
  • Hippotherapy
  • Games/Competitive Riding
  • Vaulting
  • Carriage Driving
  • Dressage
  • Equestrian Camps

The McIntyre Centre -

In 1964, June McIntyre and the late Peter McIntyre initiated the first horse riding program for people with a disability in Australia

In September 1968 after a period of growth and success, The Pony Riding for the Disabled Association was formed. In 1983 as a tribute to the founders, the centre was re-named The McIntyre Centre

30 horses provide equine support for 180 people with varying disabilities each week
  • The centre operates 6 days a week with 25 staff and a dedicated team of 100+ volunteers.  
  • During the week students from special schools attend equine sessions.
  • Sat classes accommodate riders with a disability from the wider community. 
  • A Post-School Options Program is run to assist adults with a disability develop independent life & social skills through equestrian-based programs.
  • Community riding programs for children & adults who do not have a disability are offered after school hours.
  • Holidays camps are conducted during school holidays - an integrated program with riders from all McIntyre Centre programs participating.

The McIntyre Centre will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2014 and is using this impressive landmark to launch brand new facilities that will meet growing demands of this wonderful centre (at present it has 200 people with a disability on its waiting list...). It’s currently raising much needed funds to meet this goal.

In 2011, The Equestrian Foundation for Disabled Children was formed to provide the necessary funds needed to upgrade and expand the facilities at The McIntyre Centre and to ensure ongoing funding for the Centre’s unique programs.

National Centre for Equine Facilitated Therapy (NCEFT) -

For 40 years, NCEFT has helped thousands of children and adults with special needs move beyond their boundaries through the healing powers of the horse, the skills of dedicated professionals and volunteers, and the commitment of caring families.

Internationally recognized as a leader in the field, NCEFT offers Hippotherapy, Therapeutic Riding and a wide range of equine-assisted activitiesSignificant clinical evidence exists supporting the use of Hippotherapy.

Hippotherapy is endorsed and recognized by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) as a treatment strategy within the scope of practice for specially-trained physical and occupational therapists.

Therapy Associations and Hippotherapy Associations

The Community Association for Riding for the Disabled -

The Community Association for Riding for the Disabled (CARD) is dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities through quality therapeutic riding programs. In 1969 CARD was incorporated as the first therapeutic riding centre in Canada.

In 1989 CARD was chosen to host the International Congress for Riders with Disabilities - attended by HRH Princess Anne. In the same year, CARD restructured its program to incorporate the medical teaching model of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) and now offers classes in Hippotherapy, Psycho-Education, Rehabilitation and Adapted Sport.

In 1990 CARD becomes a premier accredited centre with NAHRA now called PATH Intl.

The Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy

The Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy is an Independent Specialist Provider of Equine Facilitated Education for young people with learning disabilities and behavioural difficulties aged 16 to 25. 

The FCRT is based in the New Forest in Hampshire, UK. Horses are at the centre of its curriculum since its establishment in 1976.

Equus for Humanity -

Equus for Humanity (estab 2007) offers Equine Facilitated Activities; Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP); Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) and Hippotherapy.
Dr. Giselle Faubel is the Founder and Director of Horses & Psychology and Equus for Humanity, both equine-facilitated therapy programs. Equus for Humanity is a non-profit foundation servicing low income individuals. 

Giselle's focus is on providing ground breaking interventions through an innovative form of psychotherapy. This modality is successfully applied to individuals, families, and groups. She is a NARHA Certified Equestrian InstructorNARHA Certified Equine Facilitated Mental Health Professional and EAGALA Certified Instructor.

Children’s Programs

Hippotherapy: Physically, hippotherapy can improve balance, posture, mobility and function. Hippotherapy may also affect psychological, cognitive, behavioural and communication functions for clients of all ages. Clients who may benefit from Hippotherapy can have a variety of diagnoses, e.g. Cerebral Palsy, MS, Developmental Delay, Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, Autism and Learning or Language Disabilities. 

Sensory Integration: This program was designed specifically for children within the Autism Spectrum and the child with Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID). Many children who are currently diagnosed with ADHD may also qualify under this category.

Social Skills Group: Groups are designed for children who may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder or the child who feels left out. Children don’t necessarily have to ride the horses; the activities are geared to develop team building, empathy, compassion, social reciprocity, strengthen self-esteem, develop coping mechanisms, and enhance responsibility

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: “When I do psychotherapy with the horses, the horses are my therapists. I am very blessed to have thirteen four legged therapists and four wonderful two legged equine assistants.” Dr. Faubel

Adult Programs

Workshops: e.g. Stress Reduction Workshop

Cancer Patients Programs: The alpha mare program for breast cancer survivors (pink horse-shoes) is a program designed for women who want to think about getting healthy and living productive lives after cancer. 

The Alpha Mare Coaching Program is a "transformational experience" through the way of the horse.  It is a unique program that blends our energy and leadership skills with the wisdom of the horse.

Hippotherapy: is a treatment that uses the multidimensional movement of the horse. Specially trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists use this medical treatment for clients who have physical, mental and/or developmental dysfunctions. Hippotherapy uses activities on the horse that are meaningful to the client.

Horses for Heros: Work with trauma survivors using Hypnosis and Prolonged Exposure Therapy and has created EQUULIBRIUM ™, a program based on principles which incorporate horses in the treatment.

Horse World -

HorseWorld is the leading UK charity caring primarily for horses, ponies and donkeys. They rescue, rehabilitate and re-home animals who have been abandoned, neglected or ill-treated.

HorseWorld was set up in 1952 as "The Friends of Bristol Horses Society" in a campaign to save the lives of working horses who were rapidly being replaced by motorised vehicles in industry. 

HorseWorld also works with:
  • Probation Service to provide 100's of placements for adults carrying out community service orders. 
  • Groups of youth offenders who regularly help out at charity’s equine yard. 
  • South Bristol CAF team with courses in equine-care to help teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds and those excluded from school. 

The positive influence gained through contact with the horses is recognised by the many different organisations and referral schemes seeking to place individual clients with HorseWorld - clients with a range of special needslearning difficultiesmental health problems and those recovering from addiction

The Silva Project Equine-Assisted Therapy

Founded and led by Sylvia Steen, the Silva project is a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving the Skyrian horse, rescuing abused animals and specialising in therapeutic horse riding.

The Silva Project Equine-Assisted Therapy Program has two components:

Part One: Horse riding - under the supervision of certified therapeutic instructor and trained volunteers. Riders with mental or physical disabilities have lessons where they learn how to control the horse, gain self-esteem and confidence.

Part Two: Social - residents of community group homes who often have severe mental disabilities, visit the Silva stables every Fri afternoon to walk through the garden and see the horses. During their visits, participants brush, walk, and feed the Skyrian Horses. These weekly visits to the Silva Estate are frequently the only time our participants get to go outside and interact with nature.

The Skyrian Horse is a proven children's mount and ideal horse for equine-assisted therapy and children's therapeutic riding. The small bodied species of the Skyrian Horse is one of the rarest horse breeds in the world. Skyrian Horses are friendly, social, robust, intelligent animals. In 2009, there were 220 Skyrian Horses in Greece, of which 152 live in Skyros. The Skyrian Horse is a protected species.

Grooming a SkyrianThe small size and easy-going disposition of the Skyrian Horse allow for even the youngest children to ride independently. 

Their size and disposition also make Skyrian Horses wonderful friends and companions for people with mental, psychological and emotional disabilities: they provide a comfortable introduction to horses for those who may be intimidated by larger animals. 

“I whole-heartedly recommend the Skyrian Horse as one of the finest, best suited, most versatile and talented horses that could be introduced into a youth horsemanship program." Franklin Levinson (Way of the Horse) 

The Brook -

The Brooke is an international animal welfare organisation dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules in some of the world's poorest communities. It provides treatment, training and programmes around animal health and wellbeing, operating across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

‘Good equine welfare implies both fitness and a sense of well-being and is defined by the Five Freedoms: its components are freedom from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury, disease, fear, distress and freedom to express normal behaviour.’ 
The Farm Animal Welfare Council - 1979


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