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The physical benefits of therapeutic riding may include improvements in balance, posture, and walking ability. This works partly because a person’s gait is, in some ways, similar to that of a horse. The horse allows a disabled rider to experience movement that is natural, rhythmic, and progressive. This, in turn, stimulates and massages the patient’s muscles, improving nerve impulses, muscle tone, and posture. Many disabled riders also find that the natural body warmth of the horse helps relax tight muscles. Furthermore, people who support therapeutic riding claim that improvements have been seen in a wide range of patients’ bodily functions, including breathing, circulation, and bladder and intestinal function, as well as overall coordination. Mental and emotional benefits include improved confidence and selfesteem that naturally occurs when a disabled rider learns to control a powerful, 1,000pound animal. Because the horse is so large, but also tends to be nervous— reacting instantly and sometimes dramatically to loud voices or rough handling—emotionally disturbed individuals are often seen to exercise more focus and selfcontrol around horses than in many other areas of their lives. Over time, many such people learn to improve their behavior and functioning in everyday situations, even away from the horse.

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