The relationship between a child and a pony and the sheer joy of riding are recognized phenomena for able-bodies children. The value of riding for disabled children goes even further, as it offers therapeutic benefit on both physical and emotional levels.
Many doctors and therapists recognise that there are medical advantages for a disabled rider. The rider's body responds to the warmth and movement of the horse enabling the rider to become more relaxed and supple, reducing spasticity and improving balance, posture and co-ordination. The movement of the pelvis brought about by riding, influences the lumbar region and the spine, encouraging control of the trunk and head. Children shattered by accident or serious illness regain mobility. Children with congenital disabilities discover a new freedom in movement. Children with progressive diseases maintain mobility and activity longer.
Riding, as a new and stimulating challenge, often creates a sense of achievement, feelings of independence and greater self-confidence.
Newly found capabilities take precedence over long-accepted disabilities. New human relationships develop with the voluntary helpers; often a first step from a sheltered home life or hospital environment into a wider world.
Sitting high on a pony and looking down on other people is a new and empowering experience for a child confined to a wheelchair.
Click here for more information on how riding helps children with disabilities
numeracy and literacy
The younger children and slow learners are encouraged to
count the ears and legs of the pony, the pony's hoof-beats and their place in the ride. They learn the alphabet from the letters of the school, and key words relating to riding.
physical and mental challenges
Older children compete in dressage competitions, which require learning and remembering a complicated set of sequential movements.
These are developed through the riders meeting children from
different schools and backgrounds, as well as the adult volunteers and instructors.
long term aims of riding
Effective total body management requiring dynamic balance and agility
- Object management including manipulation, propulsion and control
- Emotional control including the ability to socialise directly
- Positive self-image
- Enjoyment of sport