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The horse as an "enabler" in horseback riding : the history of therapeutic horsemanship

By Susanna Hedenborg

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The horse as an “enabler” in horseback riding – the history of therapeutic horsemanship    The purpose of this paper is to explore and analyse the history of therapeutic horsemanship in Sweden. Sports used as therapy have a long history. This paper however, will focus on therapeutic horse riding since WW2 up until today. Therapeutic riding started in Sweden in the late 1950’s, influenced by the Olympic rider Liz Hartel (Hedenborg 2009). Today therapeutic riding is the largest sport for disabled people. Despite this, the development and discourses of therapeutic riding has not been analysed from a Swedish perspective.    When farming, forestry and transport were mechanised during the mid-1900s the number of horses declined. The number has, however, grown significantly in recent years (Hedenborg 2011). The growth can be connected to the fact that horses are important in new ways related to the unique partnership forged between horses and humans. Therefore a paper on the development of therapeutic horsemanship can give insights on how this relationship has actually changed the history of the horse.    In this paper exploring questions like when were the organisation for therapeutic riding established; how many people have been and are members of the organisations, who - sex, age and social class - is a member; and what kind of activities are offered in the organisations will be posed and the results will analysed from a gender perspective as well as a perspective in relation to disability research (comp Apelmo 2012).    An interesting situation is that therapeutic riding is one of very few sports for disabled that is not organised within the sport organisation for disabled people. Instead it is organised within the Swedish equestrian federation. A likely explanation for this, which will be discussed in the paper, is that the horse is seen as an important social actor, an “enabler”, in therapeutic horsemanship as well as horseback riding at large.


Katie Carroll

Date 2012
Pages 15
Publisher Malmo University
Conference Title 2012 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Animal roles
  3. Equine-assisted activities
  4. Equine-assisted learning
  5. Equine-facilitated psychotherapy
  6. Horseback riding
  7. Horseback riding therapy
  8. Horses
  9. Mammals
  10. Sweden
  11. Therapeutic horsemanship
  12. therapy animals