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: 4-H, Equine Assisted Therapy Programs April 1, 2024

WEST POINT, Miss. -- Sometimes, supporting veterans can be as easy as showing up for dinner.

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.

Success Stories

A girl on a brown horse led by a woman and man.
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.
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.

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Portrait of Ms. Lori Jones Irvin
Extension Associate III

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Portrait of Ms. Lori Jones Irvin
Extension Associate III