Open Arms Therapy (OAT) - Dalhart (TX) equine therapy for the disabled

What is Therapeutic Riding?

What is Therapeutic Riding?
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Autism * Cerebral Palsy * Spinabifida * Multiple Sclerosis * Muscular Dystrophy * Visual Impairment * Down Syndrome * Mental Retardation * Emotional Disabilities * Brain injuries * Spinal Cord injuries * Amputations * Victims of Abuse * ADHD/ADD * Learning Disabilities * Hearing Impairment * Cardiovascular accident/Stroke

About Therapeutic Riding

Riding for the handicapped began in Scandinavia after Lis Hartel, also spelt Liz, of Denmark won a silver medal for dressage in the 1952 Olympic games despite being handicapped by polio.  Hartel’s experience inspired a Norwegian therapist; Elsbet Bodtker, to establish a riding group for children with disabilities.  Therapeutic riding centers were first established in the 1960’s in both the United States and Canada with the formation of the NARHA in 1969.  Such programs now exist throughout the world.  

There are many benefits to therapeutic riding.  The physical benefits include increased mobility, improved balance, improved posture and core strength, improved circulation & respiration, improved appetite & digestion, as well as improved coordination and flexibility.  Horseback riding gently and rhythmically moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a natural human gait.  The rider must continually balance, re-position, contract and relax muscles while the horse is in motion and it is these voluntary and involuntary actions that benefit the rider physically.  With therapeutic riding; an individual learning to walk can experience three dimensional movement of ambulation.  This experience is hard to duplicate in the clinical setting.   As strength, coordination, balance and posture improve; the rider can begin to experience faster gaits or more complex movements resulting in additional physical benefits due to increased aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

"Horses lend us the wings we lack." Author Unknown

The psychological benefits include improved self confidence & esteem, improved concentration and focus, improved communication skills, development of patience, a sense of self accomplishment, self motivation, and an opportunity to build special and unique human and animal friendships.  For many people, mounting a horse for the first time can be a frightening experience … now imagine if you were a disabled person.  It is through a unique bond between horse and rider that the seed of trust is planted, nurtured, and grown and it is this trust that allows the rider to experience the psychological benefits mentioned above.

"In the steady gaze of the horse shines a silent eloquence that speaks of love and loyalty, strength and courage. It is the window that reveals to us how willing is his spirit, how generous his heart." Author Unknown

Therapeutic riding also provides opportunity for the disabled to build friendships with other people, to learn respect, to be part of team, to belong to a group, to compete and be recognized and to learn teamwork.  Social interaction, social acceptance, increased life experiences, and friendships are just a few of the social benefits.

"Horses change lives. They give our young people confidence and self-esteem.  They provide peace and tranquility to troubled souls. They give us hope!" Toni Robinson

Problem solving, improved eye-hand coordination, patterning, sequencing, visual spatial perception, and differentiation are just a few of the cognitive benefits associated with therapeutic riding.  Riding stimulates the tactile senses both through touch and environmental stimuli.

"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." Winston Churchill

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