Therapeutic riding is an alternative therapeutic option that uses the horse to provide clients with a unique experience. The bare necessities for therapeutic riding are an instructor, a horse, and a client. However, there are some typical toys and equipment that most therapeutic riding centers (TRC) or places that offer adaptive riding will have.
Cones and barrels are great “starter” toys. There is so much variety in how we use cones and barrels in lessons. Setting cones and barrels up to weave or circle, or use as street posts or directional signals are good ways to break up the arena. Barrels let us put something on it or pick up from it. Poles are another good “starter” toy. Poles change the movement of the horse which can give the rider a new sensation. Poles can be placed inside of cones to make them stand up and have riders reach up for them. They can be turned into boxes or L-shaped for a pattern. Poles can sit on top of cones for a barrier or for cavaletti (lifted poles).
The next toys used most often are rings and buckets. They are both multi-use and bring a new element to lessons. Rings can be placed on top of cones or poles, around a rider’s wrist, on a horse’s ear, or handed to side walkers. Buckets allow toys or objects to be hidden. Riders can carry buckets, reach in to buckets, or reach up to find a hidden object.
In addition to toys, there is some basic equipment that TRCs can benefit from having. Outside of traditional tack and equipment, TRCs often use rainbow reins. Rainbow reins are usually rubber, which provide better grip for riders, and are colored so riders know exactly where to place their hands. Safety stirrups are a must for TRCs and can fit on any saddle. These prevent a rider’s foot from getting stuck in the stirrup. Surcingles are helpful for therapeutic riding centers because saddles can be too restrictive for some clients. Surcingles on top of a bareback or Western saddle pad allow the rider to feel more of the horse’s movement and can help the hips and legs to relax.
Once the basics are met, there are hundreds of ideas and suggestions for what toys are best for a therapeutic riding program. It doesn’t have to be complicated so do what works for your program and your budget!