Why Therapeutic Riding?
Horses benefit our participants in three large areas of life. These are the physical, mental, and emotional realms of life.
The horse’s pelvis moves the same as a man’s pelvis while walking. While sitting astride a horse our patients/clients receive the Neurological input required to know what it feels like to walk correctly, therefore, building a brain to muscle connection. People who struggle with this basic motion gain muscle memory, and may begin to attempt to mimic the motion.
Horses are naturally slightly warmer than ourselves. Heat from the horse will rise through a saddle pad and reaches the rider’s body, relaxing tight muscles. In addition to the warmth, the horses’ slow rhythmical movement helps to relax tight muscles; increasing the speed and tempo helps to increase low muscle tone.
Riding a horse is a full body workout. Riders gain strength in their core, pelvic area, legs, shoulders, and neck as they ride, as well as challenge their balance, cognition, vestibular and sensory systems.
People with disabilities frequently feel as though they are not a full member of society. Others often look down upon them and they frequently require assistance for basic tasks. How life is lived rarely is their own choice.
For a rider to mount a 1,200 pound animal already takes some courage. However, for that horse to do exactly what the rider asks boosts self confidence and self worth. The rider feels in charge!
Everyone working with the rider is there for them in a way they normally do not receive. While they may still require extra assistance, they are being catered to, rather than being forced into doing something. They become part of a TEAM.
When riding a horse, the participant is taller than everyone working with them, even if they ride a pony. Looking down to the therapist/instructor and volunteers gives a participant a sense of purpose and importance.
Participants who ride at Colorado Ranchito LLC form bonds with those they work with; therapists, instructors and assistants alike. Some participants come just for the socialization aspect alone. They love to see the same people every week, and for many it is extremely beneficial to have the same people every week. The biggest bond can sometimes be with the horse. Participants never like it when their horse is sick or injured, so we try to keep our horses happy and healthy. When a horse retires, their participants will remember months or even years later.
The horses bond with our participants in a unique way. Horses treat all people as a member of the herd. However, horses seem to instinctively know when a person needs a little extra help. Our horses will shift their center of gravity to help keep an unbalanced rider on their back. If a rider slides too far, or shifts position too much, the horse will halt to avoid causing the rider to fall. The horses also have a calmer, comforting mood for the participants. Although no horse is “bomb proof”, we like to say or horses are “mother approved” due to their accepting calm demeanor.