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Therapeutic Riding, Hippotherapy and Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy

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Therapeutic Riding, Hippotherapy and

Equine-Facilitated Psychotheraopy

Therapeutic Riding opens new pathways of physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation. The rhythmic and rocking gait of the horse transfers a gentle three-dimensional movement to the rider that relaxes muscles, improves muscle tone, flexibility and balance, and enhances spatial awareness. Outdoors, with a team of encouraging volunteers and a supportive horse, self-control, self-esteem, self-confidence and independence grows. Rehabilitation becomes a joy rather than a chore.

Our riders, with challenges such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, neuromuscular disorders, post-traumatic brain injury and stress, cognitive limitations, emotional disabilties, autism and attention deficit disorder, use horses to experience an overall improvement in their quality of life.


  • Normalizes muscle strength and tone. Improves coordination, freedom of movement, balance, respiration, body awareness, tactile perception and oral motor control.
  • Enhances self-image and confidence. Increases acceptance of unfamilar experiences. Develops loving relationships.
  • Increases attending and safety awareness. Enhances comprehension and memory. Improves ability to plan sequence and follow directions.
  • Improves interpersonal communication. Promotes family interaction and broadens social activity. Develops a recreational skill.

Therapeutic Riding

In Therapeutic Riding, our core program, instructors use the horse as an tool to teach riding skills and reach individualized goals and objectives. Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemandship International (PATH) certified therapeutic riding instructors conduct each lesson for about an hour, usually once or twice a week for each client. The rider receives all the physical, cognitive, and emotional therapy in addition to learning how to ride with the goal of full independence. Riding a horse independently for a child with autism or an adult with cerebral palsy is an empowering and life-changing experience. We offer a special program designed for wounded warriors who have served our Country so bravely. Riding horses gives them peace, confidence and the physical benefits of the horses gentle three dimensional movement.


Hippotherapy is derived from the Greek hippos (horse), and literally refers to treatment or therapy aided by a horse. It is a highly structured, one-on-one therapy session under the guidance of an occupational, physical or speech therapist. Hippotherapy refers to the use of a horse as a treatment tool by professional therapists to address impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities in patients with neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction. It can improve dynamic postural control, balance, mobility, and function but may also be used to achieve sensory processing and psychological, cognitive, behavioral, and communication outcomes.

In Hippotherapy, specific riding skills are not taught, as in therapeutic horseback riding; but rather, a foundation is established to improve neurological function and sensory processing. This foundation can be generalized to a wide range of daily activities. (Please ask for our detailed Hippotherapy brochure that explains MTR's treatment program.)

Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy

Maryland Therapeutic Riding is excited to announce the addition of an Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) program to our line of service.

EFP is defined as an interactive process in which a licensed mental health professional, working in conjunction with an appropriately credentialed equine professional, partners with suitable equine(s) to address psychotherapy goals set forth by the mental health professional and the client.

Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy promotes both personal exploration of feelings and behaviors, and allows for clinical interpretation of feelings and behaviors. EFP denotes an ongoing therapeutic relationship with clearly established treatment goals and objectives developed by the therapist in conjunction with the client.

The equine is a critically important partner in the work of EFP. The equine's prey nature and intense sensitivity to subtle changes in their environment make them perfect partners for professionals who teach a wide range of life and coping skills.

Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy may be used for people with mental health needs as well as those looking for overall life skills improvement. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Self-esteem and adjustment issues
  • Mood Disorders including anxiety and depression
  • Behavioral Difficulties
  • Bereavement
  • Trauma and grief
  • Marriage and family counseling

MTR mental health professional, Trisha Itzel says, "the efficacy of treatment in just a short period of time is significant with Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy. We are seeing results within weeks as opposed to months. There are so many rich moments within the EFP session that can be pulled and applied to the client's everyday world that goals are getting incorporated as soon as the first session!"

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