What is therapeutic riding?
Therapeutic riding helps physcially: It uses the movement of the horse to help heal. The movement of the horse simulates the movement of a person moving. So when you put a child with unused muscles (for whatever reason) onto a horse, without the child even being aware of it, these muscles are being moved and exercised, and. due to the fact that we don’t use saddles, the warmth of the horse’s body comes through to the muscles of the rider and warms them, a basic need for any physical therapy session. Now the muscles are being warmed, and gently stretched, and exercised and built up without any physical exertion on the child’s part. Obviously where I use the word child you can substitute any person! The horse’s back moves backward and forward and side to side thus thoroughly exercising muscles and building core strength. This enables the child’s posture to improve dramatically.
It helps emotionally and psychologically: Horses are very sensitive animals, and respond to human emotions immediately. Not only do they mirror the child’s emotions so that the councillor/instructor can see what the child is feeling, but they respond to the child in such a way that the child sees the effect his moods and actions have on another being, and see the reaction which occurs in response to their action, and in such a way they learn to be sensitive to another person and to moderate their actions accordingly. The horses will never judge the child for their disability or emotional instability, and this gives the child a sense of safety and comradeship which the councillor/instructor can then reinforce and build on to apply to life. The child learns responsibility towards the horse, learns to brush, water, feed the horse and in this way realises how useful and needed they are. All of these feelings will be carried through to other aspects of their lives.
It helps with Occupational Therapy: It is an understood fact that the development and building of core muscles follows through to fine motor skills and even eye control. So the strengthening and exercising of core muscles will at the same time, without the child being aware, be exercising fine muscles, improving fine motor skills, improving eye tracking. Riding requires equal exercising and use of both sides of the body, you cannot have a stronger side whilst riding a horse, the left hand does equal work to the right hand, the left leg does equal work to the right leg. We do exercises to cross the centre, we use fine muscles for eye and hand control, we use gross muscles for balance and movement, and all of these help the child in need of occupational therapy. The child with ADHD can be given a pony with a rough gait to satisfy his need for tactile stimulation, you will see an immediate relaxation in this child’s demeanour as the stimulation from the horse meets his physical needs, and the concentration on the riding task in hand keeps their minds busy and steady, enabling them to co-ordinate body and mind, hand and eye. The child with spatial issues is helped by the muscular movement of the horse underneath the body as well as the forward propulsion of the horse, such that they realise that their position in space can alter safely with this big strong safe body under them, in conjunction with the fact that a slight movement of their own body can influence this big body both positively or negatively.
Therapeutic Riding is MAGIC!