Many people have asked me “What makes a good therapy horse?” Well………this is a question that requires a lot of explanation and my response is indicative of the knowledge that I have gained from the American Hippotherapy Association and, of course, my personal experiences.
Many people say that the horse can mimic human emotion like no other animal. Some are more tuned in than others, but overall this is a very true statement. Hence, why we can learn so much about ourselves when we work closely with these animals.
Many people also have the understanding that a great therapy horse is one that has one foot already in the grave. He is 30 years old, can barely walk, and doesn’t have the energy to even think about biting a little child. This is definitely not the case. Therapy horses have to be in good, sound health with good body composition and strength. They need to be comfortable working with and around people of all ages. They need to be desensitized to such things as bean bags, bubbles, hula hoops, wheelchairs, things over their heads, moving around on their backs, and being mounted from a ramp. They have to know how to respect human interaction and space. Their movement has to be symmetrical and rhythmic and preferably with varying speeds. Most importantly, the therapist or instructor has to have a good understanding of their horses and how to properly read the body language that these horses elicit. Together with a well trained therapy horse and a well educated instructor, Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding can be an extremely effective therapy source.