History

The therapeutic value of horse riding for people with disabilities has been known to the Greeks since the 5th century. B.C. First, Xenophon wrote that “the horse is a good teacher, not only for the body, but also for the mind and the heart.” In his book “On Equestrianism” it is reported that in ancient Greece doctors used horses and horseback riding to help both the physical and mental rehabilitation of disabled people.
Hippocrates says: “Riding in the fresh air strengthens the muscles and keeps them in good shape.” He believed it to be an important form of exercise that stimulates the body’s functions, affects the human soul in a positive way and soothes the symptoms of many diseases. He insisted that the injured and the sick recover faster when they are riding a horse. He also stated that riding can help people who suffer from melancholy or depression, make positive and happy thoughts.
The Spartans used to bring in the wounded soldiers and those who acquired moving disabilities from the battlefield, on horses that calmly and slowly walked for a long time with the injured as riders. They believed that this resulted in the injured having a faster recovery and rehabilitation.
From medical texts of the 17th and the 18th century, it is known that some doctors believed that riding could effectively act as a treatment of various diseases. In 1875, the French physician Cassaign used horse riding as a cure for various conditions and found it especially useful in the treatment of neurological disorders as it improved the patient’s posture, balance and joint movement.
During World War I, England used the horse as a means of rehabilitation for the injured soldiers at Oxford Hospital.
However, the rapid progress in science and medicine in the 19th century led to the elimination of such treatment approaches, as they were considered to be superstitious beliefs, and this knowledge was forgotten. The current, widespread use of therapeutic riding for people with neurological problems is believed to have happened due to Danish origin, Liz Hartel, who despite of suffering from poliomyelitis with a partial paralysis on both legs, won the Silver Medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952,thus paving the way for the creation of the first Healing Equestrian Centers in Scandinavia and England.
The first official record of the description of therapeutic riding and its benefits did not happen before 1969, when A. Kroger, a special education teacher, wrote a pioneering article titled “Training the Horses” by introducing a new therapeutic approach for exercising and training children with behavioral disorders as well as adolescents with mental disorders. He found that with the help of the horse he was able to positively influence the disordered behavior of these individuals and help them improve their psychomotor development.
Bertotti (1988) published the most comprehensive and documented research that studied the effects of therapeutic riding on the body. The study involved 27 children with spastic diplegia and spastic quadriplegia, who followed a program of therapeutic riding. They were reassessed at the end of the program regarding their body posture, and the results showed that  the spasticity had significantly decreased, their balance had been improved, their motor skills were improved, and they gained better control of their posture. It was also observed that their self-confidence was increased, their fear while changing body positions had been decreased, their striding and gait had improved considerably, and their ability to support themselves in a sitting and standing position was also bettered.
In 1983, Therapeutic Riding starts being introduced in Greece, from the initiative of Aideen Lewis at the Varybobis Equestrian Club in Athens. The first official therapeutic riding club was established in 1992 under the name of Hellenic Therapeutic Equestrian Association. Since then, many other organizations have been founded all over Greece.