To understand how therapeutic riding lessons benefit riders, it's important to first understand what lessons might consist of. While every lesson is individualized to each student's needs, there is a general format that is followed.
A warm up is always the first part of the lesson. While it is equally important for each rider, it can look different for everyone. For example, an individual with hypertonic muscles, may need to participate in exercises on and off horseback that promote passive stretching of their lower body. An individual with attention difficulties may need more complex, mentally engaging warm up activities that help them become focused for the lesson. In all cases, the warm up is designed to help the rider to mentally and physically prepare for the upcoming riding skills.
The riding skill is the main bulk of a therapeutic riding lesson. Here, the rider learns a skill that is complimentary to their overall goals. The instructor explains what, why, and how to perform the skill that they are learning that day. If a rider has the goal of improving balance, then they may learn how to maintain a centered seat when turning their horse. If a rider wants to improve their communication skills, they may learn how to verbally and/or non-verbally tell their horse how to walk on. There is an endless number riding skills that not only improve their abilities as an equestrian but also their skills in everyday life.
Practicing the new riding skill, and riding skills previously learned, gives the rider the opportunity to show what they've learned. Whether it be a pattern or a game that allows them to demonstrate their skills, they have a chance to put what they've learned into practice. The practice activity is also designed to allow room for progression if the rider is mastering the skill.
After a productive lesson, both the rider and horse need some time to cool down. During this time, the rider is given a chance to relax their body and review what they learned during their lesson. Using this time to solidify what they learned during their lesson often helps them build upon their riding skills in future lessons.
Grooming and Tacking/Untacking
Grooming and tacking horses can have many benefits of its own. It is often included in therapeutic riding lessons, but not always. The rider can create a closer bond with their horse, learn more about horses and their behaviors, and integrate multiple tactile surfaces.
Each lesson is under the instruction of a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Various riding disciplines may be used in a lesson, and the equipment used in the riding area may change from lesson to lesson. Depending on each rider's skills, a horse leader and/or sidewalkers may be utilized to help control the horse and stabilize the rider.