Why we provide horse riding for people with special needs
Physical Benefits. The horse moves in a three dimensional pattern and in a rhythmic, repetitive manner. We initially begin in walk, which is a four time movement and for those who are able to we begin with trot work which provides a two time rhythm in a diagonal pattern. Some of our riders may even progress to canter which is a three time movement. The movement of the horse facilitates a multitude of postural corrections, which improve trunk control, balance and co-ordination. Many of our riders have not had varied movement opportunities to learn dynamic postural control. By working to maintain this dynamic balance, they are challenged to stretch and strengthen muscle groups that they would use in walking, sitting and many other daily activities. Normalized muscle tone, balance and co-ordination, improved fitness and cardiovascular function are just some of the benefits that have been observed as a result of teaching horse riding skills, whilst being aware of the therapeutic benefits of the horse’s unique movement. Correct posture and co-ordinated use of the aids results in the correct response from the horse.
Cognitive and educational function. The rhythmic movement of the horse assists our riders to organize and modulate behavior resulting in improved attention and task performance. The horse riding lessons offer numerous opportunities to grade activities and to improve decision-making and motor planning. Improved posture and movement as well as interaction with the horse, instructor and helpers also assists in the development of speech and communication skills. There are many opportunities to play games or complete activities which may reinforce concepts being learned at school e.g. colour recognition, sequencing, following instructions, task completion etc. These take place in an environment where the rider is motivated to learn.
Social/emotional/psychological function. We also have many opportunities to assist our riders in developing increased self-esteem. To be able to ride on a horse means that the individual is doing something many of his/her peers would love to do. The horse is by nature non-judgmental and due to the height of the horse an opportunity is presented for the rider to be “looked up at” which may not happen in any other context, particularly for those who are wheelchair bound. The horse may also provide access to places that would previously have been inaccessible.