Hannah Burgon Department of Social Work, University of Exeter, UK
Pages 263-276 | Published online: 28 Apr 2015
Download citation https://doi.org/10.2752/089279303786992099
The purpose of this study was to examine the psychotherapeutic effect of riding therapy (RT) on a group of adult users of a social services mental health team in South Devon. The benefits of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and pet ownership on human health and well-being are well documented. However, whilst research has been conducted on the benefits of hippotherapy (the employment of horse riding as a physiotherapeutic aid) little has been undertaken on the psychotherapeutic benefits of riding therapy. Through case studies, the current study sought to explore whether the participants benefited in terms of confidence, increased self-esteem and social/interaction skills. A further objective was to find out whether these benefits, if identified, were transferable to other areas of the riders’ lives. The study was conducted utilizing a case study, participant observational methodology following the progress of six women with various mental health problems receiving RT on a weekly basis. The sessions comprised of learning to look after the horses and carrying out stable management tasks, in addition to the riding; the chief instructor was aware that an important factor of the RT was building up a relationship and trust with the horses on the ground. Methods employed to record the sessions, apart from participant observation, included interviews and questionnaires. The prime objective of the study was for the riders’ experience of the therapy to be expressed in their own words. It was found that the participants benefited in areas ranging from increased confidence and self-concept, and that the therapy aided social stimulation and led to transferable skills being acquired.