Horses are therapeutic for the body, mind, and soul. I firmly believe that, but there are also studies that have been done and are being done to confirm that. Several of these studies focus on the benefits of therapeutic riding for a specific disability. One commonly studied disability in therapeutic riding is multiple sclerosis (MS).
MS is a “disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body” as defined by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. People with MS may struggle with balance, fatigue, and muscle control which can affect mobility and gait. Studies show that therapeutic horseback riding can improve balance, fatigue, and pain for those affected (see below).
Horseback riding allows people to move through space which opens up activities that are unable to be done on the ground. More senses can be engaged in the movement if riders close their eyes while the horse walks, or hold an item while the horse moves. Riding can also provide independence to those who may start becoming more dependent on others. It is freeing to be on a horse and be taller than everyone around.
The horse’s movement mimics the movement of a person walking and the equilateral movement helps with balance. The core strength required to stay on helps with posture and balance on and off the horse. Simply being around a horse can be relaxing and grounding. This is important for anyone, but especially someone who has MS.
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If you are interested, here is some additional information about the studies:
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