Therapeutic riding : learning and recovery for people with disabilities
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The purpose ofthis study was to explore the process oftherapeutic riding as an experiential and holistic approach to learning and recovery for people with disabilities as perceived by the providers oftherapeutic riding. To enhance the connection between theory and practice and to suggest future research, the researcher endeavoured to develop a theory that contributed to the knowledge base oftherapeutic riding, animal-assisted therapy and education, experiential education, and experiential therapy in addition to contributing to connections among them. This topic was investigated because ofthe lack ofresearch about the process of therapeutic riding, particularly from learning and a recovery perspective. Few studies have addressed how therapeutic riding outcomes are achieved or how the therapeutic riding process actually works. This study was identified as grounded theory using qualitative data through interviews and narrative reflections with therapeutic riding providers, a researcher's journal, field notes, and written documents. Grounded theory analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data. This consisted ofdoing open, axial, and selective coding. This study provided detailed descriptions ofthe research approach, researcher's involvement, participant and site selection, data collection and analysis, methodological assumptions and limitations, credibility established, and ethical considerations. The findings ofthe data analysis revealed the theme ofrelationships as central to the learning and recovery process oftherapeutic riding for people with disabilities. The significance ofthe team relationships, the horse and rider relationship, and the providers and rider relationship was found. The essential components ofthe learning and recovery process were presented in a diagram in the selective coding phase. Goals oftherapeutic riding included psycho-education; behavioural and social; physical; and equestrian. Parts ofthe process ofhow outcomes were achieved included motivation; "opens new doors;" risk; task analysis; control; communication; and environmental factors. Outcomes of therapeutic riding included independence and mobility; confidence; and transfer abilities or skills. The implications ofthese findings for theory, practice, and further research were also. explored.