Training Therapy Horse

Working with horses is a very extensive topic and you can cover very different areas with your horse. An interesting and exciting area of work is the training of therapy horses. Here you can find out what is happening, what it is about, and what you can do with it.

What Opportunities Does the Training Offer You?

Before you start such training with your horse, you should think about what exactly you want. Because depending on which direction you choose, there are additional training modules available. Would you like to work therapeutically with horses? That means, for example, would you like to work with your horse and people who have a handicap? These can be children, but also adults with mental or physical illnesses. Or would you just like to train your horse or have it trained to become a calm and relaxed partner in everyday life? Or there is the possibility that you even later train their horses to be therapy horses for others.

The Requirements of the Horses for Training

A therapy horse has to be able to withstand a lot and be very nervous. Especially if it is to be used in therapy with handicapped people, your horse has to bring a lot with it. In addition to strong nerves, solid and sensible training is the foundation for a relaxed and trusting atmosphere between you and your horse. It should not only be physically fit and healthy but also emotionally strong and bring a certain degree of maturity. Horses are sensitive animals that not only pay attention to our body language but also experience our emotions. Especially when we sit on her back.

For example, people with intellectual disabilities can experience uncontrolled movements and emotional outbursts that a horse should be used to. A horse must first learn to cope with this so that it is not overwhelmed and maybe even tries to flee. There is no clear framework for the age of the horse. An already older horse may have been more calm and relaxed due to its experience or may have already been confronted with certain stimuli in the basic training. But even young horses can master this work with flying colors thanks to their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and thus their good malleability. In order to be able to carry a rider in therapy, it must of course have undergone solid basic training and be broken in. Therefore, rideable therapy horses are at least 4, more likely 5 years old. However, health is the basic requirement right from the start for your horse to be able to do this work at all. Health restrictions such as complaints in the musculoskeletal system or with the circulatory organs have no place here. That would only burden your horse unnecessarily and would also not be responsible.

Whichever horse breed you choose or have already decided on, ultimately it is the individual and his or her character that count. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pony or cold blood. When working with children, for example, a pony is of course easier to handle than a large horse. It is simply important that the horse is not only curious or eager to learn but is also people-related, very motivated, and easy to deal with.

The First Steps in Training

In the beginning, you can work a lot with your horse from the ground. Correct leadership is one of the top priorities. Together with signals such as stopping, walking further, or backing away, you can also incorporate many different leadership exercises into the training. However, you should pay special attention to standing still. Because many handicapped people cannot move up so quickly and may even need aids. Waiting until the rider is up can take a little longer. Of course, that has to be trained first. In addition to leadership, serenity training is also an important aspect of training, for example. The horse must first learn that barking dogs, screaming children, a fluttering tarpaulin, balls, fast movements, umbrellas that open, etc. are nothing dangerous and nothing can happen to them. You may already be familiar with this from your basic training. Because in order to get a calm and not scared horse in everyday life, you first start with such exercises. In this way, you can plan out what the horse will be led over by you in the riding arena. You can imitate fast movements and flying balls or screaming children with the help of extras. You can open an umbrella yourself or walk under a piece of tarpaulin with your horse. There are hardly any limits to the creativity to transform possible frightful situations into harmless situations. Of course, it is important not only to face such situations in the riding arena but also to go into the terrain and experience everyday life.

What Else is Important?

In addition to proper leadership and serenity exercises, there are other topics involved in training a therapy horse. With the help of lunge work, you can bring your horse closer to the gaits and practice communicating with him using body language. The horse must of course also be trained in all basic gaits from the back, both indoors and outdoors. The finer and purer the horse can move in the gaits, the more comfortable it is for the people who will later sit on their backs. Also, put the right training center through its paces. Modern and animal welfare-compliant training techniques should be implemented, and your needs should be taken into account as well as those of your horse.


Training a horse to be a therapy horse is not just a “simple” exercise and requires a lot of time and patience. The groundwork is a crucial and important aspect in order to get a calm and relaxed horse. However, it is only one of many building blocks. If you decide to train your horse, you are sure to have an exciting and great time ahead of you.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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