Liz Hartel of Denmark acquired Polio in 1943 which caused serious muscle deterioration (Scott, 17). She was a horsewoman and doctors believed she would never ride again. However, in 1951 she started working with a Norwegian physical therapist and the following year she entered the Grand Pris Dressage where she won the silver medal. She is generally credited with the origin modern therapeutic riding. Then it was until 1970 that the first therapeutic riding center opened in the United States(19). In 1987 Americans and Canadians went to Germany to study hippotherapy and fiver years later the American Hippotherapy Association was founded.
Hippotherapy means the, “treatment with the help of a horse”(5 Scott). Hippotherapy according to Naomi Scott may improve, “abnormal muscle tone, impaired balance responses, impaired coordination, impaired communication, impaired sensorimotor function, postural asymmetry, poor postural control, decreased mobility, and limbic system issues related to arousal, motivation, and attention. Functional limitations relating to gross motor skills such as sitting, standing, walking; speech and language abilities; and behavioral and cognitive abilities” (6 scott). Also, Barbara Engel lists exercise, balance, stimulation, bonding, and happiness and pleasure as effects of therapeutic riding(Engel, 20). Sandra Ward also says,“Therapeutic riding emphasizes control, attention and focus, sensory management, and communication( verbal and/or non verbal) in order to teach riding skills” (2190 Ward). It is clear that therapeutic riding provides many positive effects for all children that have special needs.
However, research has recently been done on how therapeutic riding helps children with autism. “The horse is unparalleled for teaching disabled children close relationships, communication, and sensitivity, skills frequently deficient in children who have autism” (7 Tolson). “Autism spectrum disorders are pervasive developmental disorders that primarily affect social interactions, language, and behavior.” (284 Smith). Some characteristics of Autism is motor clumsiness, lack of communication, delay in language, deficits in sensory processing, inability to relate to others, resistance to change and cognitive deficits(286). Studies such as ones performed by Ward, Bass, and Gabriels have shown decreases in these characteristics in children with autism after at least eight weeks of one hour lessons of therapeutic riding. This paper will explore how therapeutic riding helps children with autism increase their communication skills, decrease in motor clumsiness, sensory sensitivity, and behavioral patterns or excesses that are typical in children with autism which then positively affect their achievement in school.
A study that Ward, Bass and few others performed is an important study for this paper. They, “examined the effects of a 10-week TR[therapeutic riding] intervention on the social communication and sensory processing of...