New: Presentations from the XIV International Therapeutic Riding Congress, Athens, Greece, 2012

Trust overrides fear Pilot Therapeutic Riding Program of NGO Politropo pdf

The role of Hippotherapy in autism pdf









54 Athinas str., Volos - GREECE


(+30) 2421071024


(+30) 2421091078

Legal status: 

Non-governmental, non-profit making organisation (NGO)

E mail:  

NGO Politropo was established in 2001 in the city of Volos, Greece, as a non profit organisation and as an association of experts in the area of social care and human resources development. The aims of the Association are exclusively developmental and humanitarian and are based on the common cooperation both with state and other bodies and with individuals, and cannot even indirectly become profit making.

NGO Politropo is aimed at policies and/or actions which:

1. Help, aid or enable participation in the co-ordination of actions of social cohesion, inclusion and solidarity promoting and extending activities aiding social development and convergence between more and less developed regions of the European Union.

2. Promote or participate in the formulation and implementation of programmes for social support and accompanying measures, interventions, training and research/study activities for the promotion of the civil society in common with other European organisations or bodies.

3. Promote information and dissemination initiatives for the empowerment of the common European identity, gender equality and inclusion of vulnerable social groups.

4. Promote the solidarity, cooperation and networking between European organisations and bodies that are being governed by humanitarian ideals and respect democratic principles.

5. Promote the idea of an active civil society.

6. Establish, wherever the circumstances allow, counselling centres in every Greek prefecture, so that the ideas of the civil society and the international solidarity will be promoted

7. Enable the realisation of interventions of a social character for the support of the weakest groups of the population, irrespectively of their nationality, in Greece or abroad.

8. Participate and promote the establishment of hostels for the homeless and the children of the street and cooperate with the relevant state bodies for undertaking their education or vocational training and promotion to employment.

9. Contribute to the promotion of analysis, methodology and research on social and humanitarian matters and disseminate good practices and innovative actions, tools and methods.

10. Increase public and group awareness on European social issues, employment policies and strategies contributing to convergence and cohesion through: (i) Information and sensitisation of public opinion, and (ii) programmes responding to the social situation of special groups and enabling or encouraging their participation and access to cultural and social activities.

Politropo NGO Networks and Co-operation. Since its establishment in 2001, the Politropon NGO has participated in the following:

Community Action Programme, VS/2002/0513, Vulnerable Areas Recovery (VAR), Phase 1, 2002-2006, Preparatory Action.

European Commission, DG Fisheries, Title of Project: Women Network for a New Concept of Fisheries in Social Responsibility. No 2003/C115/07-09.

Membership and participation in the European Network of NGOs ENAR. Politropon NGO acts at the local and regional level as a project consultant to Municipal Service Organisations and co-operates closely with Municipalities, Prefectures and Social Partners in the Region of Thessaly and Central Greece in planning and supporting human resources development/training, cultural development, social care services and information, gender mainstreaming, raising awareness and dissemination activities for combating the exclusion of vulnerable groups (women, immigrants, ROMA, refugees, single parent families, etc.).






NGO Politropo materialised in Volos and Nea Ionia in Magnesia, in central Greece, a pilot program that offered therapeutic riding sessions to individuals with disability. The program was free of charge for the adolescents and adults that participated, was part-financed by European Union (75%) and the Greek Ministry of Employment and Social Protection (25%) and lasted 1 year. The therapeutic riding program had the support of the Therapeutic Riding Association of Greece, of the Association of Parents, Friends and Guardians of Disabled People of Magnesia and collaborated with the social services of the Municipalities of Volos and Nea Ionia in Magnesia.

Description of the Therapeutic Riding (TR) Program

Therapeutic - educational riding is an internationally recognized educational - therapeutic approach for individuals with mobility, sensory, mental, psychological and psychiatric problems and difficulties.

Via the present program we offered - for the first time in the region of Volos - a free of charge TR service for 13 adolescents and adults with disability (initially for 10 people entered the program but 3 of them had to leave due to changes to their life circumstances, and 3 others used their position in the groups).

Politropo made a systematic effort to organize the TR service in a scientific base and with internationally acceptable criteria.

Therapeutic Riding and its Usefulness:

The introduction of the horse in the treatment and the education of people is not a modern discovery. From the 17th century, some German doctors considered riding as a particularly intensive exercise of body, that acting upon the whole organism, could strengthen and increase its resistance, and act effectively against illnesses.

In 1969 Antonius Kroger, a pioneer special education teacher, introduced a new approach, the therapeutic-educational riding for children with behavior disorders, and for children and adolescents with psychological problems. He realized, that with the assistance of the horse he could influence positively the disturbed behavior of these individuals and facilitate their psychomotor development.

Therapeutic riding acts on the joints, the vertebral column, the muscles and the central nervous system, that regulates kinetic, sensory, cognitive, psychological and social functions.

The rider with disability, adapts the posture of his body, in order to maintain his balance in each step of horse. This almost reflexive reaction to the repeated, three-dimensional oscillations of his trunk, improves his mobility (with regard to his body posture, his balance, his muscular tone and the harmony and symmetry of his movements).

This dialogue of movements between horse and rider is a very good psychomotor exercise that cannot be repeated by any machine, no matter how intelligently manufactured it may be. Thus therapeutic riding constitutes a completely distinct opportunity for therapeutic intervention for people with psychomotor difficulties.

Children and adults with difficulties describe the horse as a precious friend.

The persons who participate in the activity of therapeutic riding are: the horse, the rider, the instructor, the horse leader and the side assistant or assistants. Through the acquaintance with the horse, the grooming, the exercises and games, the recreational walks and the discussions with the persons that participate in the activity, the rider develops motor, psychological and social abilities. Consequently therapeutic riding acts as a holistic therapeutic approach.

Therapeutic riding does not aspire to replace the classic special education, physiotherapy, ergotherapy and psychotherapy but to supplement and combine them effectively. The referral of the riders doctor is required for his therapeutic riding sessions attendance.

The TR program aimed to:

Ø      Help individuals with mental retardation, autism, and related disorders (some of them with mobility problems too),  from the region of Volos and Nea Ionia by providing them with the opportunity to participate in weekly group TR sessions,

Ø       Provide information to those who were interested to learn about TR and to help voluntarily,

Ø      Cooperate with the local social services and supplement the services they offered.

Training of personnel:

The coordinator of the program Daniil Danilopoulos (DD child and adolescent psychiatrist), and the secretary of program, trainer and leader of the therapeutic horses Pinelopi Sarafi (PS preschoolers teacher and currently a 3rd year physiotherapy student), have both been trained as level C (basic)  Therapeutic Riding instructors at the Therapeutic Riding Association of Greece and continue their training in riding and in TR in cooperation with their supervisor, Mr Nihad Ibraheem (clinical psychologist, specialised in TR in Germany, currently working at the biological farm 'Litsas' at Thermi, Thessaloniki).

The horses Markos and Rados belong to Pinelopi and Daniil, are very cooperative, especially trained for TR and their training continues on a regular basis.

Timetable of the TR program:

A. In May 2007 the following were completed:

Ø      the process of selection of the riders, and

Ø      the construction and placement of the ramp for the mounting of riders with mobility problems and/or horse phobia,

B. On 23.5.2007 we began the weekly group TR sessions and we continued regularly except from days with extreme weather (i.e. extreme heat, rain or frost) that the activity could not take place because an indoors or roofed riding arena is not available. The sessions ended with the expiry of the program in March 2008.

C. In September 2007 we completed the construction of a toilet that is fully accessible for people with disabilities (the expenses for: this toilet, the stabling, the feeding, the veterinary care of horses and for the equipment, was all covered personally by DD and the PS).

D. On 12.03.2008 we held the final meeting of the TR program in the building of the Metaxourgeio (Silk-Mill) in Nea Ionia. The meeting was open and free of charge for the public.

E. On 19 /4/2008 we organized a farewell meeting with the program participants and their parents at the Riding Club of Magnesia.

Description of the activity:

The riders of the program participated in weekly group TR sessions. We formed two groups with 5 individuals in each. Both groups were held once a week and it lasted 2 hours.

The riders were taught: grooming, basic principles about communication with horses, safety measures, basic riding skills and they participated in games with horses.

Dangers and safety measures:

In order to protect the rider in case that either the horse was startled or the rider lost their balance, we took the following precautions and safety measures:

  • They always wore a special riding helmet,
  • They held - when needed the handles of the special Therapeutic Riding surcingle (gymkhana surcingle) or the handle attached to the front of the saddle when a saddle was used,
  • They always   had by their side the TR instructor and - whenever available a side helper   and,
  • The activity took place in a properly fenced riding arena that was covered with sand.

Information on, and follow-up of the TR program:

The coordinator was giving feedback to the parents /guardians about their childs participation in the TR program in person or by phone.

The parents /guardians could watch the activity but without intervening to the work of the TR team (coordinator, leader of the horse, horse and side helper). They also had the opportunity to discuss with the team after the therapeutic riding group session.

The participants, their relatives, every interested professional and the public could all be informed   about the evolution of the TR program, about issues regarding disability, mental health and TR, by visiting the web site of Politropo:

The web site was created in May of 2007 and was continuously updated with the addition of texts, photographs, essays, articles, references, bibliography and links. This web site was created in order to contribute to:

Ø      inform and attract public and special-inerest group attention on the usefulness of TR,

Ø      the development  of TR and to the official state recognition of TR as an effective alternative holistic educational and therapeutic approach in Greece,

Within a year the web site became the most important source of information on the internet on TR (in the Greek language) and has attracted  more than a 1000 visits.

The web site contains:

A.    Photographs 

Ø      Photographs  of the horses that are used in the program:

Ø      Photographs   from the construction, transport and placement of the ramp for the mounting of the riders who need it:

Ø      Photographs   from the construction, transport and placement of a toilet that is suitable for use by people with mobility problems:

Ø      Photographs of the installations:

Ø      Horse training photographs and video:

Ø      Photographs from TR sessions:

Ø      Photographs of tools we use (Grooming tools, Tack equipment, Therapeutic Riding tools, Horse training tools):

B. Sample publications 

Ø      An article about the program from the local newspaper Thessalia (in Greek)  and

Ø      A downloadable  powerpoint presentation (in Greek) on the the evolution of horsemanship throughout history and on the evolution of TR.                                                               

C. Essays, Texts And Articles

About   Educational-Therapeutic Riding  

Ø      Therapeutic -Educational   Riding PSs final essay (in Greek) from her training as a level C TR instructor at The Therapeutic Riding Association of Greece,

Ø       Equine Assisted Psychotherapy -  DDs final essay (in Greek) from his training as a level C TR instructor at The Therapeutic Riding Association of Greece,

Ø      No pretension of being cured - Article by Michaela Scheidhacker, translated in Greek by PS, and,

Ø       THE HORSE: Real Relational object and archetypal symbol - Article by M. Scheidhacker translated in Greek by DD     

About disability  

Ø      Attitudes And Biases around disability, article by DD, in Greek*,

Ø      Disability: Definitions and Social Dimensions*

Ø      The family with a disabled person as a system*

Ø      Interdisciplinary intervention in the service of people with disability*

Ø      The Developing Mind short excerpts from Dr Daniel Siegels revolutionary book, translated in Greek by DD,

Ø      It's You I Like, a moving article by Fred Rogers translated in Greek by DD,  

About horses and horsemanship

Ø      Monty Roberts Ideas for Life, short excerpts from Monty Roberts inspiring book, translated in Greek by DD,

Ø       Prayer of a horse, poem by anonymous poet, translated in greek by DD,

Ø      Bibliographic references (for books, articles, and web sites etc, in english and Greek, selected by DD and PP) for information on riding, horse care, horse training and therapeutic riding:

D. Links  

With Greek and international web sites about disability, riding, therapeutic riding, riding as a sport for disabled people, and also links with the web pages of some famous horse trainers:

In Greek:

In English:


Selection of the adolescents and adults who participated in the TR sessions

The parents/guardians of the adolescents and adults (who attended daycare or/and rehabilitation programs in 3 centers of the Municipalities of Volos and Nea Ionia) were informed by each centres staff about the program. Those of them who were interested and wanted their child to participate in the TR program:

Ø    met individually with DD who informed  them about the program and the TR activity, discussed every query they had and gave them a brochure outlining the program and the benefits of TR.

Ø    Filled an Application Form for their childs participation in the TR program,    and,

Ø    They visited their doctor and asked for his opinion and a prescription for the childs attendance in the TR program.

The program participants were transported by the - specifically designed for their needs - buses of the 3 day centers of DOYK (Municipal Organisation for Health and Social Issues of the Municipality   of Volos) and DOKPY (Municipal Organisation for Social Intervention and Health of the Municipality   of Nea Ionia) and were escorted and cared for by the staff of these centers.

The people who helped in the TR program:

This program would have been impossible to exist without the priceless and precious contribution of the following people:


George Stylas, Mina Styla, Apostolos  Loumbrinos & Kostas Koukouvinos.

Staff of DOKPY:

Natasa Kantarakia, Christos Vogiatzis, Chrysa Deligianni, Rania Mavroiordanidou, Evi Nikolou, George Doitsinis, Stavroula Dolgyra, Katerina Fotaki, Anthi Aloutzanidou, Nikoleta Cheila.

Staff of DOYK:

Maria Adamaki, George Zaharakis, Marina Kokori, Polyxeni Parisaki, Aleka Mbiniori, Kerasia Ntina, and Aliki Koukoumbri.


 Socratis Sarafis, Despoina Baitsopoulou, Marinana Alverti, Baso Gogou.

Students of the 2nd Institute for the Professional Training for the Daycare of Preschool Children and Children With Special Needs of the Municipality of  Volos:

Elisavet Papathanasiou, Dimitra Kapaniari, Synodi Nikoleri, DimitraEirini Chanou, Georgia Dyou-Maslari, Venetia Kaizeridi, Antigoni Tasiou, Maria-Eirini Kourkouvela, Despina Vorisi, & Kyriaki Metaxa.



Within the context of the publicity of this TR program, and in addition to the web site and several publications, the team of people at Politropo produced:

Ø    A leaflet titled: Therapeutic Riding

Ø    A poster titled: Trust overtakes fear: Therapeutic Riding Program for Troubled People

Ø    A CD for use with a pc which contains the above mentioned powerpoint presentation titled: Horses and People

Ø    A DVD which contains a presentation of the Therapeutic Riding Program of the NGO Politropo in the local (Volos) television channel ASTRA TV program Discussions with experts,  that took place on Thursday 21/02/2008 (duration: 40 '),

Ø    A DVD with the actions of the TR program in the form of a short film that was presented in the conclusive Meeting of the TR program that was organized by NGO Politropo on Wednesday12/03/2008 (duration: 12 ') and took place at Metaxourgeio centre of the Municipality of  Nea Ionia. This film can also  viewed by the web site visitors at the top of this web page and also at:

Ø    A DVD which contains  recordings from the above mentioned conclusive Meeting   (duration: 90 ')

The conclusive Meeting of the TR program

The publicity and public sensitization actions began with the creation of the web site, continued   with press publications, with the targeted-to-the-inetersted groups distribution of the poster (special education, structures  of municipalities for disabled people, Department for Special   and Preschool Education of the University of Thessaly, etc), with the program presentation in the local TV program,  with the production of the leaflet and ended with the conclusive meeting of the TR program that was organized by NGO Politropo on Wednesday12/03/2008 and took place at Metaxourgeio centre of the Municipality of Nea Ionia. This centre is fully accessible for disabled people.

The interested professionals and members of the public were informed and invited to the meeting by press announcements and also by personal mail or e-mail invitations.

The meeting was attended by more than 70 individuals. Everyone was given a file which contained a copy of the program meeting, a TR leaflet, a notepad, a pen and, a feedback form for their evaluation of the program and of the meeting.

Of the 70 meeting attendees, 65 wished to be registered in order to be informed for future actions and programs of Politropo regarding the evolution of Therapeutic Riding and for other social care activities.

Photographs   from the conclusive Meeting of the TR program of the NGO Politropo.

- The attendants 1

The attendants -

The break of the meeting -

Break 2 - 2

Break 3 - 3

Break discuissions -

Daniil Danilopoulos -

Nikos Antonakis, Daniil Danilopoulos and Nihad Ibraheem - , @

Nihad -

Dimitra Karouzaki -

The meeting

Ø    started with the registration of the participants,

Ø    then Mrs Dimitra Karouzaki, President of the Therapeutic Riding Associaton of Greece, spoke about the history and evolution of TR in Greece,

Ø     Mr Nikos Antonakis, sociologist and social worker, founding member of Politropo, followed and reviewed the activities of Politropo and reflected on the results of the TR program and

Ø     the first part of the meeting was completed with DDs presentation of the above mentioned 12 film.

During the break the attendees of the meeting had the opportunity to:

Ø    see many pictures from the sessions that were exposed at the entrance of the building,

Ø    enjoy a light bouffet and refreshments and

Ø    socialize and discuss their opinions and impressions.

The second part of the meeting

Ø    started with a 35 min detailed audiovisual presentation by DD of the aims, ways and effects of TR as a holistic approach, of the work done during the program, and of future possibilities locally and nationally,

Ø    was continued by Mr Nihad Ibraheem, (clinical   psychologist, Therapeutic Riding Instructor) who presented with audiovisual material good TR practices in Greece and internationally,

Ø    then Mr George Stylas, the chairman or the Riding Club of Magnesia, where the TR program was materialized, offered his opinion and support with a short but vibrant talk.

Ø    The mother of a client, and representative of the Association of Parents, Guardians and Friends of Disabled People of Magnesia, moved everyone present with her personal account of her sons relationship with horses and their positive influence in his life and behavior. She said she thought that centaurs existed in reality and that they were wise paraplegics who were capable of achieving the horses cooperation to the point that it laid down to assist them to mount and then stood up and they walked in unity. She has been the most dedicated supporter of TR because she wants her son to walk with the horses legs!

Ø    And the meeting ended with a lively discussion about conclusions, prospects and the next   objectives for the continuation, financing and development of TR in the region of Magnisia and in Greece.

In summary, the pilot TR program of Politropo:

Ø    was for the first time in Greece part financed by European Union (75%) and the Greek Ministry of Employment and Social Protection (25%) and lasted 1 year,

Ø    was a pilot program that offered free of charge therapeutic riding sessions to 13 individuals with disability, for the first time in central Greece,

Ø    had the support of the Therapeutic Riding Association of Greece, of the Association of Parents, Friends and Guardians of Disabled People of Magnesia and collaborated with the Social Services of the Municipalities of Volos and New Ionia, in Magnesia, in central Greece.

Ø    it contributed to the local social economy by providing: a) employment for one person (PS), and with the assistance of the team, b) education and therapeutic help for the 13 participants.

Ø    it contributes in the development and recognition of Therapeutic Riding as a holistic educational-therapeutic approach and in Greece by providing the first systematically organized and systemically oriented paradigm of its application in Magnesia.

The meeting was co-organized by Politropo and the following:

Ø    Association of Parents, Friends and Guardians of Disabled People of Magnesia

Ø    Municipalities of Volos, Nea Ionia and Esonia

Ø    Perfecture of Magnisia


The responses of the audience were very positive and the comments of parents, professionals and program participants were enthusiastic.

The meeting attendees rated very positively TR and the TR program. They all believed that it is   positive to continue the activity and most of them wanted to be updated for developments around TR.

Completion of the TR program

After the expiration of the program we organized a farewell meeting with the program participants and their families on Saturday, 19th of April 2008 at the Riding Club of Magnesia.

In this meeting, Daniil and Pinelopi offered to each program participant:

Ø     One album with 20 printed photographs from their sessions,    

Ø    One DVD with the 12 min presentation in the form of a film,  

Ø    One CD with more photographs and videos,  and      

Ø    One color printed certificate

The parents /guardians were invited, to express (verbally and by using a feedback form) their opinions on, evaluation of, and thoughts about their childs attendance to the TR program. Most of them expressed their wish for continuation of the TR program and for an increase of the sessions frequency and duration, because they were pleased with the results. This is shown by their documented evaluation of the positive effects that they saw especially in their childs: learning skills, mobility, mood, social skills, behavior and relationships.

Up to May of 2008 the efforts of Politropo had attracted enough public attention and there were   links (that referred to the web site of the TR program) in the following 6 Greek web sites:


Reflections on the philosophy, application and results of the TR program

 The TR program of Politropo was designed and materialized with the following criteria:

Ø    To provide equal opportunities in education, therapy, sports and entertainment for people  who are troubled with  mental retardation, autism or multiple problems,

Ø    To provide comfortable and safe access to the spaces and installations (where the program took place) for individuals with motor, mental, communication and sensory problems,

Ø    To facilitate the social integration of the participants with their attendance  to the TR sessions and with their contact with the TR program staff , the members of the Riding Club of Magnesia and the horses,

Ø    To help change the way the participants and the people in their environment (relatives, professionals, etc) viewed themselves, and to facilitate the re-authoring of the history of their lives and of their relationships. From problematic, being at a disadvantage, disabled etc, they changed role and they became collaborators, friends, assistants, strivers, horsemen, and amazons. Their devotion and care for the horses was amazing!

Ø    The new stories/narratives  were strengthened with the documentation and certification of the participants effort with a) a change in the language that we used to describe  them and that they we used to describe  themselves and b) and with photographs, videos, certificates, publications, etc.

Ø    These proofs of their effort form a deposit for recollections of unique life outcomes and  an opening for the recognition and utilization of other unique  abilities and efforts that occur in daily life of the participants.

All the above constituted an innovatory pilot program with a lot of respect for diversity and a holistic effort, which was warmly welcomed by the participants, by their families, by mental health, education and social services professionals  and by the sensitized and interested public.

 Goals for further development of Therapeutic Riding in Magnesia and in Greece.

The foundation and operation of a Therapeutic Riding Centre with specifically designed   installations:

Ø      A riding arena with a rooftop will allow the performance of the sessions independently of weather conditions,

Ø      A large room will be very useful for warming-up and exercises,

Ø    A special lift will allow the comfortable mounting of people with serious mobility problems,

Ø    The use of a mechanical horse may facilitate the warming-up of riders with increased spasticity and the familiarization and habituation of riders who suffer with horse or other animal phobias,

Ø    With the use of a big, fenced paddock where the horses will be able to move and interact freely,   they will have a much better social organization and psychology in contrast with closed spaces (boxes),

Ø    The specific TR training of locally bred horses (Thessalian horses,  Skyrian ponies) and their use in TR facilitates their survival and the use of the TR service by more individuals who may benefit from it.

The foundation and operation of a Therapeutic Riding Centre with the above facilities:

Ø    May become possible with the collaboration between private individuals, the local Prefecture, Municipalities, Education and Association of Parents, Friends and Guardians of Disabled People of Magnesia,

Ø    May contribute to training and to the creation of job opportunities: secretary, groom, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, etc, and some of them may be disabled themselves,

Ø    May contribute to the training of more professionals in TR and to its recognition as a holistic therapeutic approach so that its cost be covered by health insurance (as happens in many European and other countries). The center may offer training and the creation of job opportunities (secretary, groom, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, etc,) for both able-bodied and disabled people.

Ø    May constitute a connection with the local equine tradition (Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great was a Thessalian horse) and a practical application of the philosophy about education and health that is expressed from antiquity through the myth of Centaur Chiron

The members and friends of Politropo continue their efforts to contribute to the above goals and want to thank you for your interest.

If you would like to share your thoughts or/and learn more about:

Ø    Politropo -  you may contact Nikos Antonakis:

Ø    Therapeutic Riding - you may contact Daniil Danilopoulos:


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