What is Therapeutic Horseback Riding?
Therapeutic horseback riding brings remarkable benefits to those with disabilities by 'stretching' both mind and muscles. For someone who can't walk, see, communicate etc, riding a horse allows them to experience a new sense of freedom; they are transported to where dreams come true and spirits soar!
The use of horseback riding as physical therapy is a rapidly growing concept. The benefits have proven to be enormous for individuals with all types of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, autism and mental retardation. Research shows that students that participate in therapeutic riding experience physical, emotional and mental rewards. Because of the gently rhythm of the horse's movement, a rider who is unable to walk alone can experience a motion similar to the human gait, thereby improving abilities to be flexible, to have better balance and better muscle strength.
Horseback riding is also therapeutic for those with emotional or cognitive challenges. The unique relationship that forms between horse and rider can lead to an increase in confidence, patience and self-esteem. A student who has always been too "slow" to participate in normal school athletics, as in the case of a student with intellectual or developmental disabilities, can now demonstrate their abilities through horseback riding. In many cases, the horse becomes an "equalizer" for the student.
Benefits to People with Disabilities
Physically: Improves balance, posture, stamina, encourages muscle development and coordination.
Mentally: Develops concentration, vocabulary, knowledge, stimulates interest in animals and surroundings, encourages receptive and expressive lenguage.
Emotionally: Gives pride in accomplishment, encourages the child to try new adventures and challenges, helps to overcome fears such as heights, animals, and meeting new people.
Socially: Encourages a friendly, outgoing, cooperative attitude.