By Nancy Tejo PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor
Horse movement and the interaction with horses provide benefits and opportunities for improvement in many areas. Some of these include cognitive, sensory, proprioception, gross and fine motor skills, muscle development, and psycho-social development.
Opportunities to improve cognitive development are created as the riders show an increased willingness to participate on horseback. This motivation enhances their ability to focus and follow directions. Riders show an improvement in attention, concentration, and comprehension.
Sensory input is delivered to the riders from the horse and the enriched environment at the barn. Sights, sounds, smells and tactile sensations are presented by the riding equipment, grooming tools, horse’s coat, and movement. Outdoor therapy and activities provides a natural environment which helps people relax, reduce stress and instill a sense of well-being. Exercising in a green space is more beneficial than forms that concentrate on exertion without considering the surroundings. (Stephen Riddell, 2011)
Maneuvering a horse around the ring in specific patterns requires motor planning. Riders execute the correct sequence of events by navigating the riding ring. They steer around cones, over poles, pass appropriate letters and work with other riders in the ring.
Proprioception, knowing where one’s body in is space, encourages development of balance and coordination. Riders learn to maintain proper alignment of their body and personal body placement while around the horses. This translates to learning personal space on the ground.
The unique sensory stimulation of the horse’s movement and the deep pressure experienced by the rider when mounted on the animal provides the sensation of walking. The walking and trotting movement of the horse stimulates the riders muscles needed for walking and coordination and aids in encouraging correct locomotion.
Results of the interaction between mounted rider and horse includes correction of body posture, gross motor skills, increased core development and improved muscle symmetry. (William Benda, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. December 2003)
Riders adjusting to the constant motion of the horse, mounting, dismounting, posting, balancing in the stirrups, holding two-point position, and steering are activities which provide opportunities to increase gross motor function.
Fine motor skills development is encouraged by the proper holding of the reins, grooming the horse’s mane and tail, assisting with buckling, unbuckling and tacking the horses. These acquired competencies can readily be transferred to functional life skills for children with autism. (Margaret Ann Stickney, 2010)
Come and meet a Sky Riding LI horse, Central Islip, LI. Therapeutic Riding benefits everyone including individual with mental, physical and emotional delays. Sky Riding LI at Parkview Equestrian Center also offers Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy for anyone looking for peace, balance and clarity and make changes in their lives. Please call 516-241-2046 for more information or visit www.SkyRidingLI.com.