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Benefits of Horse Riding for People with Disabilities and Illnesses
Benefits of Horse Riding for People with Disabilities and Illnesses. Horse riding is widely recognised as a popular recreational activity, but there are also remarkable benefits for people with disabilities and illnesses. Frank Thorogood, UK based farm owner and avid fan of the role that horses play in therapy and recreation, shares his experience and understanding of the incredible difference that horse therapy can make.
Horse Riding Therapy is More Than Just About Riding
Simply taking adults or children with disabilities into an outdoor environment can start the therapeutic process, as they will be interested and distracted from their day to day life. This is most noticeable where the adult or child may have spent lots of time in a hospital or clinical environment.
Editor’s side note: Check out Twelve Stone Farm in Talking Rock, GA. I recently visited the beautiful pastured horses. They use Equine Facilitated Therapy to help heal people. The farm rescues unwanted, retired, and abused horses.
Therapy Starts With Picking a Horse
In Frank’s experience, the next stage of the therapy is focused on meeting the horses for the first time and for the person with the disability or illness to choose their horse. Making a positive choice helps promote confidence and self-esteem, and that choice will help a personal relationship develop between horse and rider.
Grooming a Horse is Part of Therapy
Learning to groom a horse and prepare the horse for the first ride is another stage of the therapy, helping ensure that the adult or child is involved throughout the whole process.
Riding a Horse
There are many benefits of horse riding for people with disabilities and illnesses. Horse Riding for the first time takes courage, balance and coordination. It may take hours before a disabled person feels confident enough to try sitting on the horse, but the longer they have spent with the horse beforehand, the easier this part becomes.
Frank says that there is genuinely nothing more rewarding than seeing the rider on their horse for the first time, able to forget their disability or illness and make the most of their new experience. Horse riding greatly improves mental health and well-being by increasing confidence and creating a sense of calm and freedom of movement. The physical benefits are significant, including helping to develop muscle tone, balance and coordination and reduce spasms.
Frank has seen first-hand the remarkable difference that horse riding and equine therapy makes to people with disabilities or illness.
Horse Riding Helps With Cerebral Palsy
“A young boy with cerebral palsy who was never expected to walk came into the stables looking terrified. It took three sessions to get him to sit on the horse and another two sessions to get him to ride, but the effect was amazing. Riding strengthened his muscle tone and built up his confidence – by the time he left he was a different child. After three years of riding therapy he took his first steps.” This was from the boy’s own determination and Frank is convinced that his mental attitude was transformed because he was taken out of a sterile and clinical environment and given freedom for the first time.
Conditions That Horse Riding Helps
Horse and riding therapy can improve many different disabilities and illnesses including:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Downs Syndrome
- Cerebral Palsy
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
In Frank’s opinion it is one of the most holistic and valuable forms of therapy available, as it has such a major impact on both mental well-being and on physical health.