Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy
We work with children who have a variety of special needs. These include low muscle tone, cerebral palsy and other physical challenges, intellectual impairments, learning difficulties, social and emotional challenges as well as with children on the autistic spectrum.
Hippotherapy is the use of horses as a possible treatment option by therapists to achieve their treatment goals for their clients. These include Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Physiotherapists.
We welcome other therapists who may like to bring their clients and make use of our ponies.
We have well over 20 years experience in this field and have clients referred to us by Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Paediatricians, and Educators. We also integrate Ttouch and EMMETT therapy into our sessions where applicable to maximise the benefit to our clients.
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 behaviour 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. We are also able to provide opportunities to encourage those who are dependant on others to be aware of and take care of the needs of another being, through activities such as grooming, feeding etc. of the horse. All these aspects lead to increased confidence and self-esteem as well as opportunities for social interaction. These are all essential aspects to gaining skills and success in all the tasks of daily living.
Children develop good sensory integration by actively engaging in activities, especially when using the vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile senses. The horse provides strong tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation. In addition to the sensory input received from being on the horse is the sensory stimulation received from participating in activities relating to the care of the horse and from being outdoors in the natural environment. It is essential to take note of the fact that our goals focus on specific skills associated with learning to ride. In fact, as our riders become more skilled the goals associated with what they want to achieve become their own goals not those of the riding instructor! For some this may mean taking part in some form of competitive riding, for others it may be taking great pride in their care of the horse and not as much time in the saddle and for others it may mean a leisurely ride with as much assistance as they require for their safety.