Adaptive Sports

Horseback Riding – Therapeutic Riding, Hippotherapy and Competitive Riding

Adaptive horseback riding is accessible to individuals of all ages and abilities.  Generally, adaptive horseback riding is broken into three categories – therapeutic riding, hippotherapy and competitive riding.  The movement of horseback riding provide both physical and emotional benefits.  Horseback riding moves a rider’s body much like walking.  It can also improve flexibility, muscle tone, core strength, balance and coordination.  In addition, adaptive horseback riding provides mental exercise as riders must engage (not just physically, but mentally) to work with the horse.  And, there is the immeasurable pleasure of moving as one with a horse.

Therapeutic Riding
Therapeutic riding is, at the most basic level, recreational riding lessons adapted to individuals with disabilities.  It teaches both the basics of horseback riding as well as how to ride with aids.

What IS Therapeutic Riding (1:25)


Hippotherapy is not recreational riding.  It is conducted by occupational, physical or speech therapists (i.e., OT, PT, ST) who have been trained to use the movement of horses as part of patient treatment.

What Is Hippotherapy (1:00)


Clinical Outcomes of Hippotherapy (1:03)


Para-Equestrian (Adaptive Horseback Riding) Disciplines for Competition
There are three recognized disciplines for US para-equestrian competition:

  • Para-equestrian dressage
  • Para-equestrian driving
  • Para-equestrian reining


US Para-Equestrian Overview (2:20)


Adaptive Horseback Riding Tack
A wide range of adaptive equipment is available to support disabled riders.  Platforms or mounting blocks come in varying sizes and can include a wheelchair ramp.  Saddles also come in a different shapes and sizes with primary variances being height of saddle back, buckle type and padding.  Also available are breakaway stirrups to prevent dragging in case of a fall.

Additional Resources

United States Para-Equestrian Association (USPEA)
The United States Para-Equestrian Association (USPEA) includes every recognized equestrian discipline that is practiced by athletes with an eligible physical impairment – with a focus on Paralympic Equestrian Sports.  The Association assists athletes to get involved and expand their knowledge and experience by providing information about para-equestrian disciplines, events, clinics and education.

Learn about para sports events to get an idea about what’s out there and to find some ways to participate.

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