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Therapeutic Riding Lessons

Therapeutic horse riding is a multi-area intervention therapy, used for children and adults with a variety of physical, cognitive, emotional and developmental disabilities. Therapeutic Riding has been recognised for decades to improve physical, emotional, social, cognitive, behavioural and educational skills as well as being a healthy and fun activity.

Whilst sitting astride the horse, their walk gently and rhythmically moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait and so stimulates similar muscle patterns to walking. This movement can reduce muscular spasticity and improve balance, mobility, posture and co-ordination. The movement of the horse can also assist with sensory regulation, providing deep pressure into the joints.

Therapeutic riding can help increase concentration and improve learning skills. Riders are gently challenged and are rewarded with a sense of achievement and experience a general feeling of well-being, better self-esteem and self-confidence. The sense of independence found on horseback benefits all our clients.

Structured therapeutic riding sessions are done under the supervision of our specially trained and qualified Therapeutic Riding coaches. Coaches will match riders with one of our trained Therapeutic riding horses and each horse will be led by one of our trained leaders.

Therapeutic Riding Lessons in Festina Lente are designed to encourage participation and the development of individual abilities, with specific goals designed for each rider. All sessions are person centred, and designed based on what is most beneficial for each individual.

Who can benefit from Therapeutic Riding?

Everyone can benefit from Therapeutic Riding but some of the many diagnoses that can especially benefit from Therapeutic Riding include but are not limited to:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder/ Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Auditory Impairment
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Brain Injuries
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cognitive Disabilities
  • Developmental Delay
  • Down Syndrome
  • Fine and Gross Motor Skill Delays
  • Language Disabilities
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Sensory Integration
  • Spina Bifida
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Vestibular Disorders
  • Visual Impairment

How does Therapeutic Riding benefit a person?

Our Therapeutic Riding Programme is used to develop, increase and improve:
Physical abilities:
Muscle tone, balance, coordination, core strength, flexibility, fitness, posture, gait (ability to walk), respiration, circulation, sensory regulation  and integration, mobility.
Psychological abilities:
Concentration, problem solving and decision making, insight, motivation, self-esteem, confidence, learning/practising concepts e.g. letters, numbers, colours, distances, shapes etc.
Social abilities:
Communication and social skills, learning appropriate behaviour and manners, interaction, human/animal contact and bonding, building relationships, consideration for others and taking on responsibility.

Why work with horses?

Horses are unique in their response to humans because they are prey animals, not predators, and their survival demands they be extremely sensitive to the environment.

Horses will respond to us in the moment and teach us to be more self-aware and empathetic towards others.

All our Therapeutic Riding Horses are specially trained to do Therapeutic Riding Lessons and are chosen based on what is suitable for each individual rider.

As mentioned previously, horses have a similar gait to the human walk which provides a variety of physical and sensory benefits as listed above.

What is involved in each session?

All therapeutic riding sessions are 30 minutes long and will be in a roller. This allows for the rider to receive more input and can be more physically challenging for the rider

  • Once you have booked a lesson you will be sent an online wavier form. This allows the coach to plan ahead and chose an appropriate horse for each rider and to have a plan in place for the first session
  • From here each session will begin by the coach greeting you, and providing a hat and boots where appropriate. The coach will then bring the rider to meet the horse and anybody who will be assisting with the session, such as leaders and side-walkers. The rider will then mount using one of our blocks or using the mounting procedure most appropriate to them.
  • Once mounted, there will be a warm-up phase to the session. Here the coach will allow time for the rider to adjust to being mounted and discuss what will happen next.
  • Once warmed up the session can include physical exercises to help improve co-ordination, posture and balance. A variety of games and other learning aids are used as part of the sessions – all of which are used to stimulate the physical, cognitive, and emotional development of the child or adult. The exercises are done in a fun and varied way.
  • In addition, the Therapeutic Riding Sessions can include our purpose built Sensory Trail which has been specifically designed to provide both sensory stimulation and sensory integration. This also includes a water feature, woodland area, purposefully created mounds, sounds from different surfaces and a variety of therapeutic games.
  • All riders will be given a period of time to cool down nearing the end of the session. This will be a time to relax and reflect on the session but also to prepare for the session to end.
  • The Coach will assist with dismounting where necessary. All riders will be encouraged to thank the horse and any people helping with the session whilst saying their goodbyes.

How much does it cost?

Click here to view our price list.

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Who facilitates the sessions?

The sessions are facilitated by a coach who has studied therapeutic riding. A leader and side-walker(s) may also be involved.

History of Therapeutic Riding Lessons in Festina Lente

Festina Lente is a registered charity which is committed to improving the lives of adults and children with special needs. Festina Lente Equestrian Centre has been providing therapeutic riding lessons for over 5 years – our youngest rider being only 18 months old. Each year hundreds of adults and children with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities benefit from our Therapeutic Riding Lessons.

Preparing for a Lesson

Please arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the scheduled class time. This will give rider time to find helmet, change shoes, get a drink or use the toilet, etc. and be ready to ride.

Helmets & Clothes

All riders are required to wear appropriately fitting approved horse riding helmets. Festina Lente provides a wide range of helmets that riders may borrow. However, if we do not have a helmet that fits, or if you wish to have your own helmet, please consult with our office prior to purchase.

For safety as well as comfort, riders should dress in close-fitting clothing. Loose/floppy clothing can get caught and tangled with equipment. Keep in mind that we try where possible to do our lessons outside and while there is cover in our indoor arena there is no heat or air conditioning. Dress in layers that can be shed, especially during cooler months. Bring a jacket. During the summer, be sure to dress coolly. For the rider, sturdy shoes or boots are preferable. Very often parents or minders may walk along beside the horse and rider so sturdy closed toe shoes or boots are also required as well as following the clothes advice above.


It is important that if you can’t attend your lesson, please phone our Equestrian Centre office Monday to Friday 9am-5pm (01)2720704 ext 201 or our yard 01- 2720184.

How do I find out more or book a lesson?

To find out more about Therapeutic Riding or book a lesson please contact Clodagh at 01-2720704, Email at

We currently have some spaces available in our Therapeutic Riding Lesson timetable, please contact us to find out more details of available spaces: Tel: (01)2720704 ext 201, Email: to find out the most up date space availability.

Please note all therapeutic riders must have a referral letter from their doctor prior to commencing therapeutic lessons with Festina Lente. Persons with Down Syndrome must also be tested for Atlantoaxial Instability.

Festina Lente Equestrian Centre FAQ & our Terms & Conditions:

Click here to read our Frequently Asked Questions.

Click here to read our Terms & Conditions.

We also offer Therapeutic Riding Training Courses for coaches, click here to read more..

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