Horse riding as a therapy
Our Ride Therapy Programme provides horse riding and associated activities to facilitate the training and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities whose physical and mental health is likely to benefit from such participation.
Riding is a proven therapy that develops, improves and promotes many aspects: balance and co-ordination; improved muscle tone; concentration; self discipline and self esteem; perception and spatial awareness; communication and social skills; independence and encourages decision making.
The human-animal bond is a powerful connection, and our horses offer that bond to our participants each and every day. Our horses are friendly, undemanding creatures that can offer a disabled body the things it may be missing - rhythm, balance, warmth and security. The steady movement on a warm and flexible animal encourages muscles to relax and then work to strengthen and develop correctly. Stimulation up the spine and throughout the body is created. Combine this with the balance required to stay on the horse during movement and you end up creating a non-invasive method for developing core trunk strength. Riders learn to self-adjust to keep their balance and are challenged with more complex exercises that improve flexibility and coordination whilst maintaining balance.
For people in wheelchairs horse riding is the closest they will ever feel to walking again as the action of the horses walk corresponds to the physiology of the human walk. Children with autism who may be screaming and agitated on arrival, often seem to find a place of peace and serenity with the warmth and movement of riding a horse. Horse riding is often the first time a child with a disability is put “in charge” of something. Their independence and decision making skills are challenged as they learn to control speed and direction as well as solve problem exercises. This is extremely beneficial for children with developmental delay syndrome.
Stories from riders and their parents about their experiences at WRDA:
“My daughter… is severely handicapped she cannot stand or walk and is therefore confined to a wheelchair. She attends riding for the disabled every Tuesday. The exercise in her hips and legs has provided the right stimulation and knowledge for her to stand and take her own weight for what is termed as transit stands. This benefit cannot be measured in dollar value. As parents we are so proud of her. There appears to be no boundaries to what she can achieve in future through her horse riding and the benefits that will accrue from that.”
“I am visually impaired and have Ataxia…Horse riding has helped strengthen my core and this means that I can use all the equipment on my desk at school without wobbling and slouching. Horse riding is the only thing I can do on a Saturday and I’m really lucky to have it because I can’t play netball, cricket or softball but I can ride!”
“When my daughter… first started riding her core strength and posture was very limited. Now many months later her posture is amazing, her listening skills have improved, and she can focus for much longer.”
“I really valued the time at WRDA as time where I could watch …(my son)… enjoy mastering something that didn't come naturally but something he was actually achieving. Difficult to try and explain what I mean there, but so often he fails at what he tries and then stops trying. I took extreme pleasure in his starting independent riding and seeing him actually thinking ahead about what he had to do; the sheer joy of watching him achieve the tests we set him and so many of the 'little things' that we all take for granted but he has to work for was awesome. I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes!”