Olifantsrivier APD successfully uses horse riding therapy as stimulation for the children in Reenboog Special Care Centre. The benefits for this are –
• Aligns the hips; strengthens abnormal muscle tone; improves co-ordination; improves circulation, metabolism and breathing; improves eye-hand co-ordination; strengthens abdominal muscles
• Promotes stability; promotes posture; improves torsal control; reduces spasticity in the limbs
• Improves speech as the individual gets stronger and is encouraged to sit straighter; improved torsal control improves breathing. Breathing has a direct impact on speech. The rider’s breathing becomes in sync with that of the horse, effectively mimicking it. The rider can also be taught using sign language during therapy, if he/she is non-verbal.
• Reduces touch sensitivity in children
• Riding forces the rider to use muscles in the opposite way to how they would while sitting in a wheelchair
• Horse-riding has the same effect as deep tissue massage, especially when the horse gallops.
• The motion of riding stimulates brain function
• The walking gait of riding is strongly reminiscent of the movement of the pelvis in human walking
• Sensory integration: the rider learns about smell, touch, taste, sight and spatial awareness
• Creates opportunities for social interaction with others
• It offers therapy in a relaxing fashion: stretches etc. It can also teach the rider about colours, numeracy, etc while riding.
• Learning planning: Following of steps
• Horses with a smooth gait relaxes muscle tone and horses with a more “choppy” gait, increases muscle tone
• Psychological benefit: The person with a disability has an elevated point of view, seing his/her surroundings from a top-down vantage point, as opposed from the bottom-up as experienced from a wheelchair. The rider also meels more in control and has a sense of being able to do something that others can’t
• Riding teaches individuals to “multi-task”: must sit up straight, press inward with the legs, and hold the reigns simultaneously