Equine-assisted therapies provide a unique opportunity to develop both physical and emotional benefits to riders. Therapy teams consisting of the horse, rider, instructor, and typically – but not always – sidewalkers, work together to provide a fun and exciting environment for growth. From grooming and tacking to taking on the arena on top of a powerful animal, riders work to develop their physical and emotional skills throughout their time at the barn.
The Benefits of Equine-Assisted Activities
While riders focus on fun games or learning new horsemanship skills, they are also working on developing their physical strength. Motor skills, balance, and coordination are exercised constantly throughout activities due to the horse’s movement. The horse’s movement provides a similar rhythm and stride to a human stride. Equine-assisted physical therapy can include exercises to help with sitting, standing and walking. Occupational therapy further improves fine motor, sensory, and attention skills.
When the rider connects with the horse it provides comfort and security for the rider. Being in control of such a large animal can give the rider confidence and self-esteem which they may lack in other parts of their lives. Therapeutic riding also provides motivation for the rider. Each session they work on new skills and try to challenge themselves to get stronger and learn more horsemanship skills.
The Olympic events recognize Lis Hartel as an accomplished equestrian of her time. The horsewoman was diagnosed with polio at the young age of 23. Lis inspired many as she worked with her horse for three years to overcome her disability. Thanks to the therapeutic riding, Lis went on to compete in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics. Lis Hartel was the first woman to win a medal in an equestrian Olympic event.
Horse and Rider Connection
There is an outstanding and powerful emotional connection between human and horse. Many riders experience this unique horse-rider connection which provides long-lasting emotional benefits. The communication between horse and rider promotes physiological systems including speech. Speech therapy can be used during therapeutic riding sessions in addition to physical therapy. Exercises used during speech therapy support speech and language development. There are many cases of non-verbal children speaking their first words during equine-assisted activities and therapies. The unique connection between horse and rider prompts children to exercise their communication skills through use of a horse name or simple command. Horseback riding provides psychological, physical, and physiological benefits to the riders through equine bonding.
Local Therapeutic Riding Resources
There are many local resources to choose from for horse adoption, horseback riding lessons, and therapeutic riding programs. One program that really stands out in Brevard County area is HART, Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds. HART is an organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and works to retrain and rehome off the track Thoroughbreds and brings them into a safe, loving environment. You can easily help the wonderful animals and staff at HART by choosing them as your non-profit of choice on smile.amazon.com at no extra cost to you as the buyer. A percentage of your purchases will go directly to help this much-needed organization survive and thrive in the mission to help horses and other farm animals with a second chance at life. You can also contribute HART by making a direct donation through their website below or volunteer your time. As a special needs Mom myself, this organization is near & dear to my heart as I watch my daughter gain skill, confidence, knowledge and emotional skills with each lesson.
6360 Arborwood Ave. Cocoa, FL 32927
3330 Perkinson Ln, Merritt Island, FL 32953
2205 Pluckebaum Rd, Cocoa, FL 32926
All Ages and Skill Sets Welcomed
Horseback riding may feel like an activity that it is intimidating to get involved with if you are unfamiliar with horses, but there are many opportunities for both rider and volunteer for any age and any skill level. Volunteers can help with barn chores, horse care, or hands-on activities directly with equine- assisted activities, and riders of all ages from toddler to adult can begin participation in therapeutic riding programs. There are even programs that benefit couples looking to strengthen their relationship through riding. Both riders and volunteers are able to grow their skill sets and bonds each and every time they visit the barn. Equestrian-assisted programs provide a unique opportunity to build a connection with a team and equestrian partner to create long-lasting, fun memories while strengthening a wide range of physical and emotional skills.
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After traveling the world as a ‘military brat’, Melanie settled in Brevard County, FL in 2013. She is the mother of 2 amazing children and 2 adorable pups. She volunteers at her children’s elementary school, Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds (HART) and served on the Committee of her son’s Cub Scout Pack. When not being a Mom Taxi between hockey practices, Cub Scouts, fire stations, horse riding lessons and various school activities, she enjoys reading, swimming, hiking in the mountains and traveling. (And naps!)