In response to the July 2010, O Magazine’s question “Best Mood Booster,” singer Sheryl Crow said, “I rode my horse ‘Sally’ everyday in 2006 when I was getting radiation (for breast cancer, now in remission.) Riding always puts me back into my peaceful self.” (America’s Horse, August 2010, p.56).
Equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) utilize horses to provide physical and mental therapy based on standards set by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). Two organizations near Gainesville provide EAAT programs.
Located in Ocala, Fla., the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association (MTRA) is dedicated to improving the quality of life of its clients by fostering programs that enhance their physical, emotional and mental well being. MTRA is a nationally premier mentoring center and it provides a full range of equine-assisted therapeutic programs, including riding therapy, carriage driving, trail courses, equine assisted psychotherapy, and special olympics. MTRA is also a teaching facility where students can earn equine-assisted therapy certifications and degrees.
Advanced instructor and MTRA program director, Kate Robbins explains the difference between therapeutic riding and hippotherapy: “Therapeutic riding contributes positively to cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of people with disabilities. Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, or speech and language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement.”
Horses Helping People (HOPE) in Archer, Fla. offers equine-assisted therapy to enrich the lives and experiences of individuals with disabilities. HOPE offers programs such as: Horses for Heroes that provides therapy for injured military service personnel; Pony Pals in which miniature horses visit hospitals, schools, and nursing facilities; and equine-assisted psychotherapy for those dealing with issues related to anxiety, attachment, attention deficit/impulse control disorders, addictions, depression, grief and loss, traumatic stress and relational problems.
HOPE executive director, Kristen Shimeall states,” It is so rewarding to watch people gain strength and confidence from their very first time of sitting on a horse. I have witnessed amazing things. There was a young lady who used to ride before her brain injury and never thought she would ride again. But, HOPE helped her overcome that fear and she recently learned to trot again. Another child had not really spoken until coming to HOPE and now he carries on regular conversations with our therapists and volunteers. I am thankful for my job.”
More information about HOPE and MTRA may be found on their websites: