The present work investigated some aspects related with the horse's involvement animal-assisted therapies and activities (AAT/AAA). These evidences seem to be related with the role of the veterinary practitioner in the therapeutic riding team. Therapeutic riding, in agreement with the most recent psychomotor theories, is a global therapeutic method that considers the whole person as a subject (rather than the object) of the rehabilitation. The human-horse relationship, placed in a specific structured setting, is the central point of the therapeutic intervention. The horse therefore becomes an active component of the therapeutic programme, on conditions that are recognize, respect and exploit the species-specific and individual features. Several scientific studies have identified the relationship as a potential source of stress for the horse involved in equine AAT/AAA. based on the present knowledge (on equine biomechanical and mechanisms of action of equestrian activities in the treatment of neuromotor pathologies), it is possible to give some indication about morphological attitudes of animals, Nevertheless, it is more difficult to give some indication about behavioural attitudes. The most important suitability feature is the availability in establishing a positive relationship with humans, showing a correct reactivity and responsiveness to environmental stimuli. In this sense, some factors may be considered to be limiting: management factors (with particular reference to the factors affecting social and biomechanical equine characteristics) and a better knowledge of the learning mechanism, communication theory and application of different kinds of horse language. In conclusion, the outcomes reported offer a clue about the necessity of further research, focused on a definition of the best animal management factors on the basis of their effects, evaluated through behavioural and physiological parameters (yet to be deepened and transmitted to the technicians). Considering what has been highlighted up to this point, it is outlined how the veterinary practitioner is a key figure in AAT/AAA to ensure the preservation of animal welfare. The veterinarian will be able to strengthen the effectiveness of the therapeutic intervention through his/her specific skills, ensuring complete access to the rehabilitative and educational potentialities not available through the mere instrumental use of animals.
|Author Address||Dipartimento di Morfofisiologia Veterinaria e Produzioni Animali, DIMORFIPA, Facolta di Medicina Veterinaria, Universita degli Studi di Bologna, Bologna, Italy.|
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