Contra-indications and precautions to riding  

(Reprinted thanks to CanTRA, Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association)

If a pupil has any of the following medical conditions, riding is very unlikely to be a beneficial activity for him or her, and is even likely to be harmful.  Before an individual is accepted into the therapeutic riding programme, the physician and the group therapist should be consulted concerning the suitability of riding for that purpose.

  • Moderate to severe agitation (confusion, excitement) and/or disruptive behaviour.
  • Spinal instability, including subluxation (partial dislocation) of cervical vertebrae.
  • Severe osteoporosis, which is most common in senior citizens, involves brittleness of the bones and hence the possibility of fractures.
  • Seizures which are not controlled by medication.
  • Pathological fractures arising from a condition, such as osteogenesis imperfect (brittle bones).
  • Acute stages of arthritis.
  • Periods of exacerbation of multiple sclerosis.
  • Open pressure sores or wounds.
  • The individual is taking medication in type or dosage that induces physical states that makes riding risky and/or inappropriate.
  • Haemophilia, a congenital condition of the blood characterised by haemorrhages (bleeding).
  • The individual is taking anticoagulant medications (blood thinners).
  • Atlanto-axial instability.
  • Spondylolithesis (subluxation of the lower lumbar vertebra on the sacrum).
  • Coxarthrosis (degeneration of the hip joint) – riding causes too much stress on that joint.
  • Detached retina of the eye.
  • Acute herniated intervertebral disk, which may press on spinal nerve roots.
  • Complete quadriplegia, occurring as the result of a spinal cord injury.
  • Structural scoliosis greater than 30 degrees, excessive kyphosis (rearward increase of the curvature of the thoracic spine) or lordosis (increased forward curvature in the lumbar spine), or hemivertebra (a congenital defect in which one side of a vertebra is incomplete).
  • Dislocation, subluxation or dysplasia (abnormal development) of the hip(s) with significant restriction or asymmetry.
  • Any condition that the instructor, therapist, physician or programme does not feel comfortable treating.
  • After a rhizotomy, a rider should wait at least 6 months before participating in a riding programme.

Precautions and possible contra-indications

If a person has any of the following conditions, riding may not be beneficial and, in some instances, may even be harmful.   Before an individual is accepted into the therapeutic riding programme, the physician and programme therapist should be consulted concerning the suitability of riding for that person.  The programme reserves the right to determine the candidate’s suitability for inclusion in the programme.

  • Incontinence.
  • Hydrocephalus, presence of shunt(s).
  • Sensory deficits (unable to feel certain parts of the body).
  • Hetrotopic ossification (process by which bone tissue forms outside of the skeleton).
  • Significant allergies to horsehair, dust, hay, etc.
  • Recent surgery.
  • Serious cardiac condition.
  • Craniotomy (any surgical procedure on the skull).
  • Diabetes.
  • Peripheral vascular disease, resulting in poor circulation in the extremities.
  • Obesity (refer to the article “Guidelines for Weights for SARDA horses and ponies”).
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Arnold Chiari malformation, a congenital defect in which the cerebellum and medulla oblongata protrude through the skull, down into the spinal canal, and which is most often associated with other disabilities such as spina bifida.
  • Any spinal fusion, whether natural or due to surgical intervention (e.g. Harrington rod).
  • History of skin breakdown and skin grafts over areas of the body that bear weight in riding (seat and legs).
  • Tethered cord.
  • History of substance abuse which has resulted in fragile blood vessels.
  • Rhizotomy (a surgical procedure in which the roots of the spinal nerves along the spinal canal are cut).
  • Communicable diseases such as Hepatitis B, which can place the persons affected and/or others at risk.

Note: SARDA recommends that children under the age of 3 should not participate in therapeutic riding unless there is consultation by a physiotherapist or occupational therapist and supervision by a certified SARDA Instructor.

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