Benefits of Therapeutic Riding
No one could ever argue that the benefits of Therapeutic Horseback Riding are not many and varied. Each child, adolescent, adult or senior able to experience a therapeutic riding session will leave with different therapeutic benefits.
Overcoming the fear of climbing aboard a very large animal with a mind of its own (Bart) is especially empowering for someone of advanced years or small stature. Human preservation tells us that horses are big, strong, powerful animals thought to be domesticated. Horseback riding can be so far outside the box (stall) that the fact that it can be healing and helpful never crosses one's mind. Therapeutic Riding presents people with a disability with the opportunity to take a risk (like being the first person to ride the great big horse named Buck) and experience a sense of integration (with all those other brave hearted souls).
A person who has had a stroke may find that riding helps strengthen their weak side, improves their balance, and gives them a chance to develop a new friendship with their equine partner Czar, and volunteers as well. Their range of motion improves after warm-up exercises are completed.
The benefits for a person with a physical disability are indeed numerous. Riding Babe or Echo will certainly help to stretch and relax spastic (tight) muscles in the thighs. Getting up onto Max will definitely require strength and coordination, and of course, one must not be afraid of heights.
For a rider with a learning or developmental disability riding can improve memory retention since the horse must first hear his name and then the command before anything will happen. Now, the gray horse you are riding today could be Snowball, Joker or Smokey... what did the instructor say his name was???? Sequencing skills and motor planning are skills that develop over time. You must plan how to get the horse to stop and then implement the plan; otherwise Spud will cruise right past the dismounting area and take you back to the center of the ring.
Riding provides social integration for a person with Autism. It does require an awareness of socially appropriate behaviors (we must always thank our volunteers) and helps to develop a respect for animals (who doesn't love Twinkle or Willy?). Other emotional benefits can be an increase in self-confidence once you are able to ride Pepper or Popeye independently. It can give a person an interest outside of oneself and in another living being.
Riding Dakota or Kiwi down Keillor road with the North Saskatchewan at your side, geese flying overhead (never look up!), people chatting, and no one telling you to "sit up straight" can be so relaxing and enjoyable. You do sit up straight so that the people strolling past you will think how "equestrian" you look. At the same time your pelvis is moving just as it would if you were actually walking yourself. This cannot happen in a wheelchair... ever.
The joy of riding Rooster (he is a horse of course!) can be seen on the faces of many riders, unable to express certain emotions. It takes patience to stop Prince from trying to snatch a mouthful of grass while walking on the trails and it takes control to keep Patches from rushing back to the arena where he feels safe.
Riding is a very motivating activity. It is so much more fun that exercising in a gym. It is social, entertaining, enlightening and sometimes even spiritual. But above all else it is therapeutic in so many aspects of everyone's life, for the rider, for the parents, for the volunteers and for the instructors. It brings people together from all walks of life, people who would never have a chance to interact with a horse or with a person with a disability. It levels the playing field for those who could never think about the benefits of riding. It introduces Doctors, Teachers and Therapists to new and varied options for their patients and students. It is inspiring to watch a frightened youngster gain confidence. It is exciting to see someone who is bound to a wheelchair explore the freedom of movement. It is educational to see how selfish we have all been, but most of all it is enriching to see happy faces and free spirits. And... if you get chosen to carry the pink shovel on the trail ride... it is FUN!Top
For more information about the benefits of therapeutic riding, contact our Riding Administrator, Linda Rault.