Appreciating the power of the horse to change lives
Through Therapeutic Riding programs, children, youth and adults with physical and/or developmental disabilities improve physical health, relax tight muscles, increase balance, build muscle strength, sharpen hand/eye coordination, improve social skills, and gain a sense of control and self-confidence as the rider experiences a freedom never felt before.
Riding a horse gives something very powerful to a person with disabilities. The feeling of achievement that comes from riding and maneuvering a 1,100 pound horse is strong medicine. It turns defeat into victory and self-doubt into self-confidence. People who might otherwise be confined to a wheelchair ultimately gain a new independence and mobility on the back of a horse. Horseback riding, along with the close relationships riders build through working with horses, is a life-affirming journey toward wellness. The contact with horses and riding gives them a ray of hope in an otherwise pretty bleak world.
The horse’s soothing rhythm, strength, warmth, and three-dimensional movement pattern provides healthy exercise while improving circulation and muscle tone. The unconditional love of the horses is proved to reduce anxiety, encourage interaction and offer a haven where riders can feel a sense of empowerment.
Riders who start out completely dependent on helpers may eventually become independent and be able to go places and do things on the back of a horse that they could not otherwise do and even participate in competitions. These benefits can cross over into their non-riding lives too, with an increased ability to perform daily tasks. Mentally handicapped and emotionally disturbed individuals can also benefit from riding. The interaction with a live animal can reach psyches that may otherwise be locked away.
Barefoot Saddles and Therapeutic Riding
Pure barefoot saddles usually have a completely flexible structure (no tree). They fits on different horses’ backs and can be adjusted with a few minimal changes made to the saddle. The horse enjoys the light weight of these saddles and a freedom of movement which is transmitted directly to the rider, providing a very close contact. Because they are so light in weight, children can handle them without much effort. Riders enjoy a deep and secure seat which also gives them the necessary stability. Barefoot saddles also have a very soft and cushioned seat. This is especially beneficial for thin riders providing them with a lot more comfort.
In the United States, therapeutic riding is governed by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.