The Excelsior Thoroughbred Advancement Program

Why Thoroughbreds? Why Therapy?

sandyAll Borrowed Freedom and Second Chance Thoroughbred programming focuses on the ability of the horse and the rider. What goals do we want to help them reach? Is it physical? Emotional? Perhaps they need a fresh start? Notice a trend? Scenarios that apply to humans, can most often apply to the horse…especially a retiring Thoroughbred. Our years of experience, formal training and extensive networks of support allow us the unique opportunity to bring horse and human together to create bonds, earn and give mutual respect, and become all that they can be.

What makes a Thoroughbred suitable for work in therapy settings? Obviously they are a very beautiful breed, elegant, tall, athletic and powerful. They draw us in with their intelligent faces, and bold personalities. They are known to be hot, flighty and far too fast and powerful for most. But the truth is, when removed from the racetrack, most are wonderful and versatile mounts suitable for a wide range of riders and new careers. Because they can do mot everything from Hunters, Jumpers, Cross Country, Dressage, Western and more, the opportunities for placement are good. Unfortunately, the War Horse, or older Thoroughbred, is often passed over in favor of a younger more ‘mold-able” horse. We believe that the older Thoroughbred offers wonderful options for work in therapy! Wise, very well trained and often with exceptional ground manners, these horses need some time and specific training, but are more settled, with a predictable demeanor.

What type of therapy can they help with? Ideally we would like to have our horses find work in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy and/or Equine Facilitate Learning Programs for at-risk youth and adults with psycho-social special needs. The extreme intelligence of the breed makes them highly intuitive, which is a desirable trait in EFP/EFL therapy horses. Thoroughbreds that are smaller in size, 15-15.3hh are preferable because they can be cross trained for unmounted and mounted work that includes Adaptive/Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy, which is a medical treatment that utilizes equine movement.

This page is provided to educate the public on the challenges disabilities pose for students, and what benefits adaptive/therapeutic riding and Hippotherapy can provide. The list is not all-inclusive and student’s needs vary greatly.

Special Need


How Equine Activities, Therapy & Hippotherapy Helps


Inattentive, limited eye contact, delayed language, unusual fears

Postural and verbal stimulation

Cerebral Palsy

Impaired balance, fatigue,uncoordinated movement

Promotes symmetry, balance, posture, increases muscle strength

Down Syndrome

Characteristics vary but may include mild to severe learning disability, poor muscle tone posture, muscle tone and coordination

Improvement of expressive and receptive gross and fine motor skills, balance, posture, muscle tone and coordination


Trouble coping with everyday life, situations and interpersonal relationship, short attention span

Increases self-confidence and self-disabilities awareness and provides appropriate social outlet

Hearing Impairment

Challenged communication, may have attention deficits

Promotes self-confidence, attentiveness, balance, posture and coordination

Learning Disabilities

Problems sequencing and problem solving

Stimulates attention span, cooperation, language skills, posture and coordination

Mental Retardation

Developmentally delayed in all areas, short attention span

Stimulates group activity skills, balance, posture, coordination, eye-hand coordination

Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular weakness, easily fatigued

Stimulates postural and trunk alignment, may slow progressive loss of strength

Multiple Sclerosis

Fatigue, weakness, visual impairment, loss of coordination

Promotes balance, symmetry, strengthens muscles, socialization

Spinal Cord Injury

Trauma to spinal cord resulting in a loss of neurological function

Stimulates posture and balance, strengthens trunk muscles, is an option for recreation

Traumatic Brain Injury

Impaired balance, motor skills, speech, paralysis, weakness

Stimulates balance, posture, gross and fine motor skills, speech and perceptual skills

Visual Impairment

Insecure posture, lack of visual memory, fearfulness

Stimulates spatial awareness, posture, and coordination, provides structured risk taking and freedom of movement