Asheville Academy - Therapeutic Boarding School for Girls 10 - 14 Years Old
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Therapeutic Horseback Riding

What is therapeutic horseback riding?

Therapeutic Horseback Riding is a specialized service that is offered on a case by case basis. A PATH International certified therapeutic riding instructor along with the Clinical Director, an Occupational Therapist and/or a Special Education professional, as indicated, will review and evaluate student applicants that may benefit from these services based on need.

Many of our students attend occupational therapy on a regular basis. Therapeutic horseback riding provides some of the same benefits as occupational therapy. It’s carried out in a really playful format, utilizing fun games and exercises, which make therapeutic horseback riding not even feel like therapy at all! Some of the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding include:

  • an opportunity to practice fine and gross motor skills
  • practicing balance and coordination
  • exercising proprioception, which helps participants understand their physical place in the outside world
  • enhancing vestibular functioning in order to gain a sense of balance and spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement and balance
  • practicing active and passive range of motion.

Lesson Plan for Therapeutic Riding

The therapeutic horseback riding student is required to set her own goals for the coming week; halter and retrieve the horse from pasture, groom and tack up her horse each week prior to mounting and riding. She is also responsible, as part of her lesson experience, to untack, groom and return her horse to pasture and put away all grooming tools, tack, and clean up after her lesson. Within a one hour lesson, this will typically allow approximately 25 to 30 minutes of mounted riding time.

In order to experience more mounted time, the student is motivated to stay focused and on task to prepare their horse for a lesson. The student has the opportunity to explore her own successes and modify the lesson goals when necessary. Lessons are typically facilitated in a small enclosed riding arena or may involve a trail ride on our 25 acres or neighboring properties with access to natural forest and logging trails.

From time to time, when we have one or two other students participating in the therapeutic riding program, we may want to combine these students into a group format lesson. This will be limited to a total of three students at a time if this seems therapeutically indicated, or reward or incentive driven.

Volunteer Driven

The therapeutic horseback riding lesson is often dependent on trained volunteers who support the rider by leading the horse or walking next to the rider. Students that have reached advanced levels in equine programming, demonstrate proficiency in certain competencies, are in good standing programmatically, and are 13 years or older are eligible to be trained as a volunteer to help with preparation of the horse or lesson plan. The volunteer’s involvement in the lesson is considered a community service activity and prepares the student for returning home and volunteering at a therapeutic riding center in their home area.

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