Riding With A Disability

riding for the disabled

We pick up one of the disciplines mentioned in Kim’s earlier blog article about the World Equestrian Games… namely para dressage.  If riding isn’t difficult enough on its own, add to it some form of disability and the difficulty multiplies exponentially.  Kim’s written the following piece to set the scene in advance of some very exciting news that due to announce in the coming weeks.  Can you guess what it is?  Read on to see if you can work out what our news is…

History of riding for those with a disability

It is not clear when riding for those with a disability became a specialised field but history records people with disabilities riding horses as early as the days of the ancient Greeks.  The therapeutic value of riding was documented as far back as 600 B.C.  The Greeks recognised that riding was more than a means of transportation.  They realised it was also a way of improving the health and well-being of people with disabilities.

The first study of the value of riding as therapy was reported in 1875.  French physician Cassaign used riding as a treatment for a variety of conditions.  It concluded that it was helpful in the treatment of certain kinds of neurological disorders by improving posture, balance and joint movement with the added bonus of psychological improvements too.

Olympic Success

At the turn of the century, England officially recognized this type of riding as a beneficial form of therapy and offered riding therapy for wounded soldiers at the Oxford Hospital during World War I.

Riding therapy was introduced in Scandinavia in 1946 after two devastating outbreaks of polio in the country.  Madame Liz Hartel, a Danish, accomplished horsewoman, who was stricken with the disease and normally confined to a wheelchair, took supervised riding lessons to improve her muscle strength and coordination.  She bought global recognition to riding for those with disabilities when she won the silver medal for Dressage at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.  Her courage and achievement gave encouragement to many people.

By the 1950's, British physiotherapists were exploring the possibilities of riding as therapy for all types of handicaps.   As a result the British Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) was founded in 1969 with the enthusiastic support of the Royal Family.

Exciting news...

As we said at the top of this article, we'll be announcing some exciting news very soon. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in hearing about first then then sign up for our newsletter today!


Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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