In addition to the physical benefits for the rider (such as improved posture, muscle strength, and trunk balance), a human-animal bond develops between the rider and the horse, providing psychological benefits to the rider. Sitting astride a horse also can increase the rider’s sense of independence and self-esteem.

Individuals of all ages, disabilities, and conditions may benefit from therapeutic riding, including but not limited to people with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, learning disabilities, spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, visual and hearing impairments, cardiovascular accidents and strokes, brain injuries, amputations, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy.

Local communities, 4-H members, and volunteers also benefit from opportunities associated with therapeutic riding by being a part of rewarding and memorable experiences.

Services Offered

Therapeutic riding is an equine-assisted activity that contributes to the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social well-being of individuals with special needs.

Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, or speech therapy treatment strategy that uses equine movement as part of the patient’s treatment plan.

Educational programs include summer camps, school field trips, and individual or group equine activities.

Certification workshops for therapeutic riding instructors are provided to individuals interested in obtaining PATH Intl. instructor certification status. Therapeutic riding instructors who are interested in teaching at a PATH Intl. riding center are required to achieve one level of PATH Intl. instructor certification. MSU Extension Equine Assisted Therapy Program staff host these certification workshops.

Additionally, MSU Extension Equine Assisted Therapy Program staff may assist individuals and civic groups with developing therapeutic riding programs in their  communities.

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Filed Under: Family, Equine Assisted Therapy Programs October 8, 2019

The Mississippi State University Extension Equine-Assisted Therapy program will hold a fundraising event Oct. 12.

Man seated on a step stool in an arena looks at a horse while a large dog watches cautiously.
Filed Under: Equine Assisted Therapy Programs April 19, 2018

WEST POINT, Miss. -- The groundwork portion of therapeutic horseback riding offers emotional and mental benefits to veterans who take part in a program at Mississippi State University.

Lance McElhenney of Webster County served in the U.S. Marine Corps around the world. Injured by a mortar fragment in Iraq in 2004, this Purple Heart veteran now fights a different battle -- with multiple sclerosis. One of his weapons is an old horse he named Archie, for Archibald Henderson, the grand old man of the Marine Corps.

Nora Molina, 5, is proud to show her horseback riding trophy to her teacher Leslie Earnest, a research associate at the T.K Martin Center at Mississippi State University. Molina was one of 46 riders taking part in the second annual Therapeutic Riding Expo at the Mississippi Horse Park on April 19, 2016. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Linda Breazeale)
Filed Under: Equine Assisted Therapy Programs April 22, 2016

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Therapeutic horseback riding is about much more than physical therapy.

Cassie Brunson, coordinator of the Mississippi State University Extension Service Therapeutic Riding and Activity Center, said participants first come to the program for the exercise, but they stay for the relationships.

Volunteers and riders will be featured at Mississippi State University’s second annual Therapeutic Riding Expo at the Mississippi Horse Park on April 19. This file photo shows Lantz Stewart of West Point offering advice to Eli Barlow before they enter the arena for the first riding exposition in 2015. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Linda Breazeale)
Filed Under: 4-H, Equine Assisted Therapy Programs April 13, 2016

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Riders involved in the Mississippi State University therapeutic riding program will demonstrate their skills in a special event April 19 at the Mississippi Horse Park.

About 46 riders will take part in the second annual Therapeutic Riding Expo, which begins at 6 p.m. The horse park is south of Starkville at 869 East Poorhouse Road. The event is free and open to the public.

Success Stories

A girl on a brown horse led by a woman and man.
Equine, Equine Assisted Therapy Programs
Volume 2 Number 1

Trauma survivor benefits from Extension hippotherapy program

General outpatient therapy is a major step in helping trauma victims on the road to recovery, but hippotherapy has emerged as an effective method of helping them regain mobility over time.

Lance McElhenney working with his horse in an arena.
Equine, Community, Family, Equine Assisted Therapy Programs
Volume 5 Number 3

He joined the US Marine Corps to serve and protect the country, and, as a Marine in Iraq, Lance McElhenney felt 10 feet tall and bulletproof.

A woman wearing a blue collared jacket stands in the fruit aisle of a grocery store.
Peanuts, Irrigation, Equine, Equine Assisted Therapy Programs, The PROMISE Initiative, Nutrition, EFNEP
Volume 5 Number 2

In this "What's New in Extension," Extension agents implement better safety standards, train to deliver Mental Health First Aid, and receive national recognition. Also, new irrigation and specialists join the Extension family.


Equine Assisted Therapy Program
Extension Stories

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Thursday, July 11, 2019 - 11:15am

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Portrait of Ms. Lori Jones Irvin
Extension Associate II

Your Extension Experts

Portrait of Ms. Lori Jones Irvin
Extension Associate II