Bearcat Therapeutic Riding

Path LogoOur mission is to provide Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) to people with physical, cognitive and social-emotional disabilities by utilizing individualized, best-practice methods and techniques designed to promote the highest possible level of independence.

Bearcat Therapeutic Riding (BTR) began with two riders in the fall of 2009. We now provide a variety of EAAT programs to more than 30 children and adults in Greenwood, Abbeville, Laurens and adjacent counties. BTR is a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH, Intl.) member center with three PATH registered instructors on staff.

Bearcat Therapeutic Riding Programs

BTR offers a variety of Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT). EAAT utilize the horse and its movement to effect change in a riders’ physical, cognitive and social-emotional health.

Therapeutic programs include:
Adapted Horseback Riding
Adapted horseback riding is a form of equine-assisted activity in which adults and children with disabilities are taught how to ride a horse. Educational, recreational, sports and physical/cognitive goals may be incorporated into a riding session; however, the primary goal is to teach horsemanship skills. These lessons are taught in small groups of no more than four riders, and medical consent is required to participate (see Rider Forms).

Unmounted Horsemanship Classes
BTR’s horsemanship classes also fall under the category of equine-assisted activity. Two types of classes
are offered:

  1. Life Skills classes teach participants about horse body parts, breeds and colors; horse nutrition; how to groom and tack a horse; different types of riding; jobs involving horses; bathing horses; horse dental care; and first aid for horses, among other topics. Throughout the class comparisons are made between horse care and activities of daily living experienced by the participants. For example, similarities and differences between horse body parts and human body parts, grooming a horse and personal hygiene, and human nutrition vs. horse nutrition are discussed.
  2. Showmanship at Halter classes provide an opportunity for participants to form a partnership with their horse by learning to lead them from the ground in specific patterns. While practicing showmanship patterns and techniques, participants are also practicing gross motor skills, eye-hand coordination, body awareness, sequencing, empathy and teamwork. Showmanship fosters a sense of self confidence and leadership. Those interested in competition have the opportunity to compete in showmanship at the South Carolina Special Olympics.
Hippotherapy

Hippotherapy is a type of equine-assisted therapy utilized by occupational, physical or speech therapists. The client is not taught how to ride a horse rather the movement of the horse is the primary treatment tool used to make changes in the rider’s neuromuscular and sensory systems. During a hippotherapy session, the therapist instructs the horse handler to lead the horse in specific movements and schooling figures designed to facilitate particular movement and sensory responses in the client. BTR currently offers occupational therapy (OT). A prescription for occupational therapy from the client’s physician, followed by an OT evaluation, is required to participate.

Why the Horse?

The movement of the horse at the walk is almost identical to the human walking pattern. For someone who has never experienced typical movement or has lost typical movement due to a stroke, head injury or other neurological disorder, the movement of the horse can activate the appropriate muscles needed for functional activities, while the warmth from the horse relaxes stiff, spastic muscles.

Disorganized sensory systems, as are found in autism, ADHD and most cognitive disorders, benefit greatly from the repetitive, rhythmic motion of the horse. This motion helps organize the sensory system, which then allows the rider to focus on specific activities and learn new skills. The gait of the horse can be varied to facilitate calm or increase alertness depending on the individual needs of the rider.

From a social-emotional standpoint, working with a horse astride or on the ground leading or grooming fosters self-confidence, teamwork, empathy, independence and patience. Opportunities abound for socialization with both the horses and volunteers who help with each program.

Click here to find out more about our programs.