Benefits of Grooming and Groundwork

Grooming and groundwork can be of tremendous benefit to anyone, with or without special needs. Individuals generally love or fear horses, and as sensitive beings, horses are perfect mirrors to reflect human feelings. Working directly with a horse can help process any negative emotions on a smaller scale and will impact daily life in a positive way. Those students who are unsure or nervous may prefer working with a smaller horse in the beginning to help overcome fear.

Grooming improves the horse’s physical appearance and helps keep them healthy while teaching students the importance of taking care of themselves. Spatial awareness improves as one needs to take body position in relation to others into consideration while learning how to maneuver each brush, how much pressure to exert while interacting with the horse, and how to safely lift a saddle or other equipment.

Groundwork consists of leading a horse while staying on the ground. This helps teach horses, and students, proper manners and respect for one another’s space. Simply walking next to a horse can increase control and stability of the body.


Denise Strasser - Niece of student

Ashley Detterbeck DPT, ATP, SMS Physical Therapist

Ashley Detterbeck DPT, ATP, SMS Physical Therapist

Ever since Mark broke his arm a couple  years ago, he has pampered it.  It's been a challenge to get him to do  his therapeutic exercises.  Mark’s love of horses has helped us in ways  we didn't expect.  When he grooms he has to use both arms.  The brushing  motion is the gentle exercise he needs to strengthen his arm.  Since he  started grooming last year we have seen him use his arm more for his  daily activities. Grooming has strengthened his arm - giving him an  overall better quality of life. 

Mark has a history of losing  focus doing his daily tasks. When he is grooming he is close to the  horse and he is 100% engaged with the task.  This helps him to learn how  to maintain focus.

We also work on memory exercises.  After we  show him the different brushes and talk about their uses we then repeat  this again every time he uses the brushes. Then we have him try to tell  us which brush is for which task. This memory exercise helps him outside  of HART too. His caregiver can ask him specific questions about events  that happened during the day and he is able to reply better than he did  before we started working with the horses.

Emotionally and physically the whole experience with HART has benefited him in more ways than I could ever write down. 

I'd  be happy to have you join us for a lesson so you can see how it works  for him.  He'd like to tell you all the things he's learned how to do. 

Ashley Detterbeck DPT, ATP, SMS Physical Therapist

Ashley Detterbeck DPT, ATP, SMS Physical Therapist

Ashley Detterbeck DPT, ATP, SMS Physical Therapist

Many people associate therapeutic riding as just the riding component of the lesson. 

While  research has shown improvement in posture and control of the individual  due to the pelvic movements of the horse, grooming and groundwork is  quickly overlooked.   

Grooming and groundwork activities allow  for continued work of not only mental interaction, but physical gains.   By allowing the individual to participate in these activities we are  further challenging the core musculature, balance sensory systems, and  confidence. 

Grooming and groundwork allow the student to  participate in these activities on his/her own feet which in turn allows  for carry over of the learned pelvic movements that the horse provides  during riding.   Carryover then allows that student to adapt those  movements, whether it be dynamic standing balance with reaching and  change of directions as in grooming, or learning to navigate uneven  terrain and soft surfaces during groundwork.  These are all aspects of  daily living that are significantly challenging to a person with  disabilities. 

Promotion of these further advanced skills is  pertinent in progressing the student’s balance, ambulation skills, and  confidence for peer to peer interaction, community and household  ambulation.