We respect that our donors give through us and not to us to change the lives of those with special needs and disabilities.
YOU can make a difference! We ensure you that your tax-deductible donation will be put to special use! Other than our contracted Therapeutic Riding Instructors, we are an all volunteer team. This means your donation goes straight into funding the therapeutic riding program and not to pay salaries and administrative costs. The smiles you will provide by allowing these riders to continue with their therapy will melt your heart! Please take a few minutes to look through our gallery of photos. (Greg can you make the word ‘gallery’ a clickable link) YOUR donation will change the lives of both children and adults living with special needs. You can sponsor a rider, sponsor a horse, donate to general funds, donate tack, feed, etc. Every donation, monetary or in-kind makes a difference! Should you have any questions regarding donations, please contact our Executive Director, Dr. Kimberly Oviedo at 770-917-5737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make a tax-deductible donation, please click here (Greg can you insert a donate now button)
To learn more about how your donation is put to use, please click here.
Throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of individuals with and without special needs experience the rewarding benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). A physical, cognitive or emotional special need does not limit a person from interacting with horses. In fact, such interactions can prove highly rewarding. For instance, experiencing the rhythmic motion of a horse can be very beneficial. Riding a horse moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, so riders with physical needs often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.
Whether it’s a five-year-old with Down syndrome, a 45-year-old recovering from a spinal cord injury, a senior citizen recovering from a stroke or a teenager struggling with depression, research shows that individuals of all ages who participate in EAAT can experience physical and emotional rewards. For individuals with emotional challenges, the unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem. Those with more physical needs will improve in overall strength, balance, endurance, and motor function.
Beyond Limits Therapeutic Riding is a member center of PATH Intl. PATH Intl. is an international voice of the EAAT industry. As the premier professional membership organization, PATH Intl. advocates for EAAT and provides a basis for safe and ethical equine interaction, through education, communication, standards and research.
PATH Intl. was founded in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) to promote safe and effective therapeutic horseback riding throughout the United States and Canada. Today, PATH Intl. has more than 870 member centers and more than 8,000 individual members in countries all over the world, who help and support more than 62,400 men, women and children–including more than 5,500 veterans–with special needs each year through a variety of equine-assisted activities and therapies programs.
PATH Intl. Certified Instructors use a variety of equine-assisted activities and therapies to help tens of thousands of individuals each year with physical, mental and behavioral challenges gain strength and independence through the power of the horse. EAAT helps people from all backgrounds and all walks of life in a variety of ways, including increasing strength and flexibility, improving motor skills, promoting speech and cognitive reasoning, and building relationships and social skills. The individuals served by PATH Intl. members may face any number of challenges, including paralysis, multiple sclerosis, autism, Down syndrome, substance abuse, traumatic brain injury or amputation – but all benefit from the power of the horse.
PATH Intl. upholds its mission to promote excellence in EAAT through four primary program areas: instructor certification, center accreditation, educational opportunities and advocacy work. PATH Intl. is the credentialing organization that certifies instructors and accredits centers according to a set of field-tested standards designed to ensure the highest levels of safety, ethics and effectiveness in the industry. Instructors must attend workshops and pass both a written and practical exam to become certified to teach EAAT programs, and centers may undergo a voluntary site visit to become accredited service providers. The process is led by trained PATH Intl. members who volunteer their time and expertise to help teach, test and grade fellow professionals seeking certification or accreditation.
To learn more about PATH Intl. please check out their website by clicking the link, http://www.pathintl.org.
New scientific research continues to reveal critical information about equine sentience; their abilities of perception, cognition, memory, and emotions such as pain and fear. Equines are able to perceive, respond to and learn from the impressions they receive from minimal sensory stimuli. The stimulus may originate from changes in human biochemistry, body language, or vocal intonations. It can also come from changes in the equine’s environment, relationships with other equines, or the equine’s general health. In this way, equines make decisions based upon the stimuli they experience from others or from their environment (Hangg, 2005; Nicol, 2002; Proops, McComb, & Reby, 2009; Saslow, 2002). Each equine is unique in personality, and has individual likes, dislikes and habits. The information gained from equine communication can be highly useful in all EAAT settings. Listening to and learning equine communication is important to the success of the human-equine interaction.
In EAAT sessions or lessons, viewing the equine as a partner invites opportunities for relationship building and skill building with all participants served. In addition, participant’s ability to communicate and work in-sync with a horse, who is 10 times their size/weight, is a huge confident boost. Even more so, being able to care and ride independently is even better! The horses choose to let us be in their lives, they could just as easily refuse, but their gentle nature prohibits them and they crave their relationship with us just as much as we like being there for them.
Therapeutic Riding is recreational horseback riding lessons adapted to individuals with disabilities. Beyond Limits is a member center of PATH Intl. and our therapeutic riding lessons are taught by a professional PATH certified riding instructor. Our lessons are individual unless a group lesson is requested, such as siblings who want to share a joint lesson. We strive to teach our riders to ride independently; however, we have a team of trained volunteers ready to assist when needed. The emphasis is on proper riding position and rein skills, which often coincides with functional therapeutic goals. Therapeutic riding typically starts at about age 5 and there is no maximum age level for participation. Because therapeutic riding is an adaptive/recreational/sport activity, not therapy, it is not covered by insurance. However, there are several agencies in our area that provide funding for therapeutic riding. Therapeutic Riding also offers competitive opportunities to those who are interested.
Hippotherapy is prescribed by a physician and delivered by a team that includes a licensed, specially trained occupational therapist and our in-house trained volunteers. The horse’s movement is essential to assist in meeting therapy goals. Hippotherapy is a one-on-one treatment based on standardized testing and a plan of care developed specifically for the individual. At all times, there is direct hands-on participation by the therapist. Hippotherapy requires one to three volunteers per session depending on the rider’s ability level. Typically there is one to two side walkers to assist in keeping the child on the horse, a lead walker to lead the horse and the therapist conducting the therapy. The treating therapist continually assesses and modifies therapy based on the child’s progress. The beauty is the ability to take traditional clinical therapy, and put it on the back of the horse! The goal is to improve neurological functioning in cognition, body movement, organization, and attention levels. Beyond Limits provides Hippotherpay for children approximately 4 to 5 years of age up to age 21.
Therapeutic Riding is typically a self-pay program and we charge our riders a subsidized fee of $60.00 for a one-hour private lesson, or $30 for a thirty-minute private lesson. Our true cost is $89.88 per hour lesson, but through generous donations and diligent fundraising we are able to keep our costs low and only charge the $60 for a one-hour lesson or $30 for thirty minute lesson. There are several agencies that will assist in paying for therapeutic riding lessons. The links below are to some of the agencies that currently assist in sponsoring riders in our program.
Contact: Lisa Dodd at (706) 295-6425
Contact: Nicole Brickhouse at (404) 634-4222
Contact: Kathy Sutton at (229) 439-7061
Will assist you in finding funding (ask about NOW and COMP waivers).
Contact: (800) 229-2038
Contact: Monty at email@example.com.
Hippotherpay is typically covered by your medical insurance plan and is offered by Beyond Limits Pediatric Therapy Center. They are contracted with us for use of our therapy horses and arenas. Please contact the office at 770-917-5737 to have your insurance benefits verified and to schedule an evaluation. There is a low $50 monthly barn fee for hippotherapy services that is paid out of pocket.
Below are some, but not an all inclusive list, of diagnoses that may benefit from therapeutic riding and/or hippotherapy. At Beyond Limits we have found that every rider who has come to our program has had substantial positive changes in their lives whether it be physical, emotional, and/or psychological. Friendships are made, camaraderie is built, independence is gained, and self esteem soars!
Attention Deficit Disorder
Children with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have difficulties with attention and self control of behavior. Horseback riding requires attention to the instructor and the horse. Children who participate in a riding program will be taught sequential steps for learning to control their horse and becoming more independent. Riding lessons can be modified in length to accommodate for decreased attention span in the beginning of the program.
Children and adults with autism often participate in therapeutic riding programs, and at Beyond Limits we have seen great success for individuals with autism. Both equine-assisted activities such as riding or hippotherapy can impact the life of a person with autism.
Bass, Duchowny, and Llabre (2008) studied children with autism participating in a 12 week therapeutic horseback riding program. Two instruments were used to measure social functioning before and after the intervention: the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and the Sensory Profile (SP). They found the children with autism who participated in the therapeutic horseback riding program improved in sensory integration and directed attention as compared to the control group.
Macauley (2007) studied children with mild, moderate and severe autism participating in a 10 week speech therapy session using hippotherapy. The children were evaluated using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) as well as attention to task and number or session goals met. All children showed progress on at least one of the following four CARS subtests: relating to people, listening behaviors, verbal communication and nonverbal communication.
People with brain injuries can experience multiple symptoms related to their injury. They may participate in a variety of programs depending on their abilities and goals. People with a brain injury who are seeking to pursue a new recreational outlet may benefit from riding programs. Participants develop skills needed to direct their equine partners through obstacles, cones courses, or on trail rides.
People of all ages with cerebral palsy may enjoy interacting with horses. Children can learn a sport such as riding to share with their peers. Adults may treasure riding as a life long leisure activity. Horseback riding requires skills including good posture, coordination, and balance to direct the horse. Riders with cerebral palsy may progress from riding with sidewalkers to riding independently.
A large amount of research in equine-assisted therapy has involved children with cerebral palsy. Shurtleff, Standeven, & Engsberg (2009) measured head and trunk stability changes in children with cerebral palsy after 12 weeks of hippotherapy treatments provided by an occupational or physical therapist. The research team used a motorized barrel and video motion capture to challenge and measure the changes in motor control. The children showed very significant improvements in control of their trunks and heads at the end of the intervention period and maintained improvements after a 12 week period without treatment.
People who have experienced a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke may experience challenges from deficits resulting from the area of the brain affected by the stroke. Examples of deficits include loss of the use of a limb such as an arm/hand, difficulty finding or understanding words, or struggles with the vestibular system (balance). At Beyond Limits, we offer a variety of programs to work with these challenges and those who have had a CVA may benefit from an enjoyable physical activity involving horses. They can learn to ride or may use an adapted rein on their weaker side. Riding in a group is a great shared social experience as well as opportunity to interact with horses.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing may experience improved self-esteem and a sense of independence and empowerment by becoming an independent equestrian. People with hearing impairments will develop unique ways to communicate with their instructor and equine partner while learning riding or driving.
Developmental Delay/Cognitive Delay
At Beyond Limits we are able to provide a variety of recreational programs that reflect personal preferences and choices for the person with developmental delays. Learning horseback riding skills includes leisure and recreational activities alone and with others, riding socially with others, taking turns, extending the time of the riding lesson and expanding one’s repertoire of skills towards independent riding. Some persons may choose to compete in programs such as the Special Olympics, local horse shows and summer camps that will take their experiences BEYOND!
Children and adults with Down syndrome may participate in equine-assisted activities or equine-assisted therapy if atlantioaxial instability (AAI) has been ruled out with current x-rays and/or the participant has no signs or symptoms of this condition per their physician.
Champagne and Dugas (2010) provided 11 weeks of hippotherapy to two children with Down Syndrome and measured changes in postural control. The Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM) and accelerometry were the instruments used to measure. Improvements in gross motor behavior (particularly walking, running, and jumping) were revealed by the GMFM. The overall accelerometry data demonstrated interesting adaptive responses to the postural challenges induced by the horse.
Many people with emotional disabilities are able to enjoy equine based programs that promote physical activity and social interaction. Our program is designed for safety and close supervision as well as fun, interesting activities.
Participants in our therapeutic riding program are presented information about riding and horsemanship in a variety of methods. People with learning disabilities have the chance to learn through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic methods while learning to ride a horse. They may be motivated to learn more about horses then they are in their school classroom. The horse’s response to the aids given by the rider is natural positive reinforcement and helps participants build skills.
Therapeutic riding can be a great source of exercise in which people with multiple sclerosis may choose to participate. They can participate in riding within their limits of strength and energy and still enjoy an active recreational activity or sport. Riding may help people with multiple sclerosis stay limber and active.
Silkwood-Sherer and Warmbier (2007) studied the effects of hippotherapy on postural stability in persons with multiple sclerosis. They found that the group receiving hippotherapy (9 adults) demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in balance as measured by the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) and Tinetti Performance Oriented Mobility Assessment (POMA) following 7 weeks of hippotherapy intervention. The comparison group consisting of 6 adults showed no improvement in balance. A between group difference in the BBS scores by 14 weeks was noted, thus suggesting that improvements in the intervention group may have been caused by the hippotherapy treatments. None of the subjects in either the intervention or comparison groups participated in other forms of rehabilitation during the study.
People with muscular dystrophy may participate in our program to keep active while engaging in an enjoyable activity. Riders may start out more independent, but may need more support as their disease progresses. Riding lessons may be tailored to the abilities and stamina of the rider. This flexibility helps the person with muscular dystrophy stay active and engaged while coping with changes in their abilities. Therapeutic riding also promotes core muscle strength and tone which helps the rider stay active.
Participants with spina bifida may participate in equine-assisted activities or therapies at Beyond Limits Prior to participation, the client’s doctor will need to carefully screen the participant for concerns such as tethered cord, hydromyelia or Chiari II malformation. Any changes in neurological status must be carefully monitored during participation in riding programs. Learning to ride or a horse may be an empowering experience and allow someone with limited mobility from spina bifida to experience a greater freedom on the back of a horse.
Spinal Cord Injuries
People who have had a spinal cord injury may have varied levels of impairments from sensory loss to quadriplegia. A complete spinal cord injury above T-6 is a contraindication for riding, but would not necessarily prevent a client’s participation in other types of equine programs such as unmounted activities where they can bond with the horse. Many people who have had a spinal cord injury may participate in therapeutic riding lessons to address challenges with trunk control or coping with their injury.
Lechner, Kakebeeke, Hegemann, and Baumberger (2007) conducted research to determine the effect of hippotherapy on spasticity and mental well-being of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI).Spasticity was measured by the Ashworth Scale and subjects’ self-rating on a visual analogue scale. Well-being was measured by subjects’ self-report on the well-being scale Befindlichkeits-Skala of von Zerssen. The researchers found that only the effect of hippotherapy reached significance for clinically rated spasticity compared with the control condition (without intervention). Immediate improvements in the subjects’ mental well-being were detected only after hippotherapy.
People who have a visual impairment are able to learn to ride independently and compete in equestrian events. Strategies to help people with visual impairments include learning to count steps/strides, or auditory markers in the arena. These strategies are frequently used at Beyond Limits and both instructors and horses are able to accommodate and accept the rider’s differences.
Bass, M. M., Duchowny, C. A., & Llabre, M. M. (2009). The effect of therapeutic horseback riding on social functioning in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1261-1267. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0734-3 (published single research study)
Borges de Araujo, T., Araújo, R., Santana, L. A., Lopes, M., & Franck, C. R. (2006). Use of hippotherapy as physiotherapy strategy treatment in improvement for postural steadiness in patient with lower limb amputated: A pilot study. Paper presented at the 12th International Congress of Therapeutic Riding, Brazil. Paper retrieved from http://www.ncpg-kenniscentrum.nl/documenten/twaalfdeintcongresfrdi.pdf (oral presentation of single research project)
Champagne, D., & Dugas, C. (2010). Improving gross motor function and postural control with hippotherapy in children with Down syndrome: Case reports. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 26(8), 564-571. (published descriptive report)
Lechner, H. E., Kakebeeke, T. H., Hegemann, D., & Baumberger, M. (2007). The effect of hippotherapy on spasticity and on mental well-being of persons with spinal cord injury. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 88(10), 1241-1248. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2007.07.015 (published single research study)
Macauley, B. (2007, April). Effects of equine movement on attention and communication in children with autism. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Hippotherapy Association, Atlanta, Georgia. (oral presentation of single research project)
Shurtleff, T. L., Standeven, J. W., & Engsberg, J. R. (2009). Changes in dynamic trunk/head stability and functional reach after hippotherapy. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 90, 1185-1195. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2009.01.026 (published single research study)
Silkwood-Sherer, D., & Warmbier, H. (2007). Effects of hippotherapy on postural stability, in persons with Multiple Sclerosis: A pilot study. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, 31(2), 77-84. doi:10.1097/NPT.0b013e31806769f7 (published single research study)
Note: Following each reference citation is the type of evidence. In this set of references, the highest type of evidence is a published single research study, followed by a published descriptive report, and then an oral presentation of a single research project. Type of evidence is important and is a factor for consideration for evidence-based practice.