The Impact of Hippotherapy on Grieving Children

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Abstract

This article looks at the use of therapeutic riding, or hippotherapy, with children who are mourning the death of a family member. Therapeutic riding is the summer program that is part of the Evergreen support group for grieving school-age children and their families. A qualitative study of the impact of the riding program is presented. The research question was whether the children, parents, and adult volunteer would view the program as encouraging the processing of grief and person development. The following themes in perceived outcomes of the program were identified: confidence, trust, and communication skills. The parents and guardians all described the therapeutic riding as a positive experience. They noted an increase in overall communication, including talk about the deceased, as well as an increase in the child’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Success with the horses appeared to be important to these children, who expressed pride and joy in their accomplishments.

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