Therapeutic riding is an activity that uses the help of a horse to achieve the goal of contributing positively to the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional well-being of people with special needs. Benefits of therapeutic riding are seen in the lives of our clients in the areas of education, health, leisure, sports and recreation.
Riding on the back of a horse rhythmically moves the body of the rider in a way that can be compared to a human’s movement. This helps riders with physical disabilities display improvement in muscle strength, balance and flexibility.
Besides the therapeutic benefits of horseback riding, individuals also enjoy recreational opportunities as they are able to enjoy the outdoors.
IMPROVEMENTS IN FINE MOTOR SKILLS
Small muscle movements are required when horseback riding. These kind of movements improve the dexterity and fine motor skills of each client. Most times, the activity deals with the movement of the hands, and depending on the task set by the therapist, they can be accomplished while the client or student is riding on or off the horse. Examples include selecting and holding the reins while riding.
IMPROVEMENT IN BALANCE AND MOTOR COORDINATION
Both balance and coordination are required when riding a horse. Because of this, students who experience difficulties with balance and coordination due to their specific challenges can show great improvement with therapeutic riding.
Students can coordinate their movements while dismounting and mounting the horse, riding, and so much more. As a rider learns to stay balanced on the horse, their muscles are learning to work together to maintain balance. Changing directions, starting, and stopping the horse are all challenges that deal with maintaining balance.
POSITIVE SENSORY STIMULATION
People with specific challenges including autism, benefit from therapeutic riding as horses stimulate the senses in many ways. The rider’s sense of touch, hearing, smell, and vision are all stimulated by the feel, sounds, and smells of the horse itself. The stimulation happens to the students’ tactile senses when the horse is in motion. This creates both appreciation for the act of riding and sensory enjoyment.
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