Therapeutic Riding and You : an evaluation of how a local therapeutic riding program affects the lives of riders
Wonnell, Amy Kathryn S.
Master of Public Health
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The purpose of the study was to determine how the Thunder Bay Therapeutic Riding Association impacts the lives of the riders; to determine what aspects of the program are most important to the riders; and to provide the participants a chance to give feedback about the program. There were 129 questionnaires sent out to riders, parents/caregivers and volunteers who had participated in the therapeutic riding program the previous year. Questionnaires were completed and returned by 12 riders, 15 parents/caregivers, and 22 volunteers. The questionnaires were made up of close-ended and open-ended questions. A focus group was also conducted to supplement the findings of the questionnaires. There was one rider, one parent, and one volunteer participant in the focus group. The study investigated four domains of life: physical well-being; social well-being; development and activity; and emotional well-being. The results indicated that the therapeutic riding program has a positive effect on all of these four domains. The greatest effects of the program appear to be in the areas of emotional and social well-being. This was seen in that the program provides a positive and uplifting experience; provides social benefits to riders; and supplies a sense of accomplishment, independence and empowerment. The two most important aspects of the program are the horses and the volunteers. The program could be improved by having more consistency with the volunteers and equipment; by having individual goals and a progression of skills for each rider; and by giving more instruction and information to the volunteers. Overall, the program is commended by many of the individuals involved and has been both enjoyable and beneficial. Limitations to the study include that it involved a small number of participants, that it involved a small number of rider participants, and that only people involved in the program during the previous riding season were invited to participate.