The term therapeutic riding originated in Germany and was used to treat those suffering from orthopedic dysfunctions such as scoliosis. Similarly, therapeutic horseback riding or equine assisted therapy was originally used to teach riding skills to people with disabilities. Therapeutic riding has been known to help both adults and children who present with any sort of cognitive, emotional and physical conditions.
Often when a person first hears equine therapy, they instantly think it simply involves learning how to ride a horse, but they would be wrong. As a result of being used for years as part of behavioral treatments for troubled individuals, it is now being used to assist those struggling with eating disorders.
On a non-scientific level, equine therapy grants those suffering with an eating disorder the kind of unconditional acceptance they long for. Horses can’t make judgments based on appearance, so as long as you’re kind and respectful, they are the same in return. This type of acceptance is very often the first step in recovery. By working with the horse, the individual is able to process the unconditional acceptance from the horse and thereby begins to learn how to unconditionally accept his or herself.
Equine assisted therapy often involves caring for the horse. Working with a therapist, an individual with help to groom, exercise and feed the animal. With a healthy diet being an essential component to keeping a horse in good condition, this can be an excellent and indirect way to help someone relearn the importance of eating well. As a result, conversations about healthy diet and exercise for the horse can provoke talking about the same needs in humans.