First, a little history lesson! Did you know Hippocrates was the first to describe the benefits of the horse for rehabilitation purposes, calling horseback riding a universal exercise. As far back as the ancient Greeks it was recognized that riding was more than a means of transportation, it was a way of improving the health and well-being of people with a disability (NARHA, 2000).
Therapeutic riding as a therapy started with Liz Hartel from Denmark. Her legs were paralyzed from polio but with therapy she was able to win the silver medal for dressage in the 1952 Olympic Games. At about that time, in Germany, therapeutic riding was used to address orthopedic dysfunctions such as scoliosis. The first riding centers in North America began in the 1960s and the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) was launched in 1969. (Wikipedia)
Fast forward to present-day in Northwest Arkansas. Through a little research, we’ve identified four organizations throughout the region that focus on equine-assisted activities and therapy for families and children. Learn about each of their missions below.
Equestrian Bridges’ primary objective is to improve the lives of NWA children and their families through equine-assisted activities and learning. The vision at Equestrian Bridges is that they change the face of mental health for children and their families with their Equine Recreational Therapy Center in Washington County. At the center they empower children and youth considered to be at risk for social, behavioral or academic delays with the tools to develop emotional, mental and physical fitness using Natural Horsemanship doing Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies.
Courage Therapeutic Riding Center
Prairie Grove, Arkansas
Courage Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to providing equine-assisted activities and therapeutic riding to under-resourced individuals. Their vision is to stimulate, motivate, and engage individuals to create a deeper connection with themselves and others. They promote independence, personal growth, and presence of mind through equine-assisted activities. Staffed with PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) certified instructors, Courage evaluates the needs and abilities of each individual client. Through their services, they provide a unique, experiential opportunity for all ages and abilities.
Strengthening self, one hoofbeat at a time.
Horses for Healing
Horses for Healing is a nonprofit therapeutic riding center for individuals with special needs in Northwest Arkansas, run by a Board of Directors. In addition to private clients, Horses for Healing is one of the few centers in the country to provide services to area school children. A Sports Riding Program is also offered to provide advanced equestrian training and activities for independent riders that includes group lessons, camps and competitions. Located conveniently west of Bentonville, is an established full-service boarding facility with 23 stalls, rolling pastures, a covered arena, and an outdoor lighted arena, on 75 acres. At Horses for Healing, their participants find success in the saddle and in life.
Autumn’s Reride Youth Ranch
ARRYR is a faith-based ministry that pairs rescue horses, children from all backgrounds and their families to promote a place of healing and encouragement. They offer weekly 90-minute sessions for for kids aged 5-17, at no cost to families. The ranch is a place that offers healing from brokenness, a safe place where children and families can just “be”. They rescue horses, pair them with one leader, one child. The co-founder, Rebecca Christians, has 20 years of experience working with horses, 15 years of experience working with special needs children, and has been involved in working with youth in faith-based settings since 1997.
We will leave you with a quote from Robert Redford’s foreword in Riding Home ~ The Power of Horses to Heal, “But that’s the thing about horses. They connect in ways that often, words can’t capture but hearts can.”