What Do Therapeutic Riding Centers Do?
Therapeutic riding involves the use of horses and activities that are equine-assisted that forms a suitable therapy for people with certain disabilities. It is believed to improve their skills physically, emotionally and socially. The skills also involved in forming and developing relationship with the horse that is being used. Therapeutic riding centres impart the therapy with the help of professionals consisting of full-time staff and volunteers.
Horse riding therapy was used during ancient times by the Greeks for people who had serious illnesses. It is also been documented during the 17th century and was prescribed for neurological illnesses as well as gout and stress-related disorders. A more recent example is that of Liz Hartel whose legs were paralyzed due to polio but she overcame all odds and went on to become a silver medalist in the 1952 Olympic Games.
A riding instructor provides due guidance towards carrying out the steps involved in the treatment of the individual with disabilities. Horses have a unique movement which helps in providing neuromuscular stimulation to the person who is riding the horse. The rhythm involved in the motion is similar to a human being walking. It has the same side movements and the pelvis rotation that is involved during a walk. In addition, the horse ride can be adjusted to suit the individual's speed and make it more comfortable while achieving the desired movements.
The therapy also involves companionship of the horse for the individual which is one of the biggest benefits. The person with disabilities gets a companion who he can look after and can groom with simple activities like washing and brushing. This is believed to have a stress reducing effect and relaxes the person.
The gains from therapeutic riding may vary from person to person and depends on the type of disability and its severity. It also depends upon how motivated the rider is and the relationship between the rider and the horse. Riding involves various muscles in the entire body and the person also has to maintain a good balance by steering and adjusting the ride. Riding is a strong motivator and the excitement created is such that it can make the person forego the pain and discomfort involved.
When a person with disabilities is able to ride a horse it becomes a great achievement. This is because a normal person who may not be having any disability may be unwilling to ride a horse because of being afraid. Significant improvements have been observed due to therapeutic riding in various studies that have been conducted on people with disabilities.
Physical improvements include an improved sense of balance and increased control over muscles. Besides it builds up strength in the individual and improves posture and free motion of joints. It also improves motor skills and increases sensory integration.
The physical exercises include mounting and sitting on the horse in the proper position and riding forward. The rider is also able to extend the arms and can stretch them as well as swing the arms forward and backwards. At the end of the ride the rider has to dismount the horse.
Amongst the psychological benefits are an increase in self-confidence, self-esteem and emotional control. The person is able to observe more self discipline and becomes very patient. The biggest benefit is the sense of normality that therapeutic riding brings about, in addition to a great reduction in stress.
It is also a highly addictive experience where the individual acquires riding skills and knowledge and safe methods for riding.
Types of disabilities
Therapeutic riding can be applied as a treatment for various disabilities and conditions including ADD and ADHD, brain and spinal cord injuries, autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. It can also be applied to hearing and visual impairments as well as a speech therapy.
The therapy is highly beneficial for various ailments and brings about a great improvement in people with disabilities. Therapeutic riding centers can be found in many cities details of which are available online at their respective websites. The centers are well-equipped and have other professionals who also organize events which can be highly beneficial for people with disabilities.