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Old 01-17-2009, 03:20 AM   #1
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Smile Nice horse story, about therapeutic riding

Horses That Heal

Horse-assisted therapy is becoming more accepted each year by physicians, therapists, psychologists and teachers as an alternative form of therapy.
By Gail Suhfras


Therapists did not recognize the advantages of horse-assisted therapy until Denmark's Liz Hartel, a rider suffering from polio, won a silver medal for dressage at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. Since that time, therapeutic riding has grown throughout Europe, Canada and the United States to become an accepted form of therapy for many disabilities, both physical and mental.

There are three basic classifications for therapeutic riding: sport, education and medicine.

The sport classification includes riding, driving and vaulting as forms of therapy. People with physical, mental or psychological impairment can participate in these adapted forms of equine activities. Sport helps disabled riders learn to control their bodies and their mounts in an enjoyable way.

The educational classification emphasizes incorporating goals to help the student think and reason, to improve behavior, to deal with psychological strengths and weaknesses and to improve physical condition.

In the third classification, medicine, therapists integrate principles of medical or psychological treatment into various abilities with the horse. The emphasis is on movement and not necessarily on the student controlling the horse. These students are often immobile and unable to leave their wheelchairs for regular abilities.

The Therapy Horse
The most important quality in a therapy horse is a calm and gentle temperament. The therapeutic mount must be level-headed and accept new experiences willingly.

The preferred size of the therapy mount is about 12 to 15 hands, which makes it easier for volunteers to assist the rider from the ground. The horse must have three good gaits, be no younger than 5 years old and should not be green. The horse should be trained to accept mounting and dismounting from mounting blocks, and must stand quietly for long periods of time. It must become accustomed to wheelchairs, crutches and walkers that sometimes will be used around it and occasionally bump into it. Also, it must learn to accept working with up to three people around them on the ground while the rider is mounted.

The horse must also become familiar with verbal commands as well as occasional spontaneous loud screams of joy from an excited rider.

Horses chosen for equine therapy programs seem to understand that their special riders are different than the normal riders they have carried previously. Some horses have been known to shift their body weight and balance to correct a rider who has moved off balance. They listen carefully to the riders who can use leg aids and seem to be able to understand and ignore flailing legs of other riders who have little or no control over their leg movements. Therapy horses seem to enjoy their work and the company of their human companions.

Therapy People
Volunteers range from young students to retirees. Some volunteers help tack up and groom the lesson horses. Some handle barn duties, such as feeding and cleaning. Many volunteers enjoy being involved with the students as leaders, teachers or sidewalkers, providing physical support for the disabled rider. Those volunteers whose skills lie in administration help perform office work, fundraising and committee work.

Getting Involved
People interested in a career in therapeutic riding may want to consider some of the educational opportunities in the field. There is a need for certified therapeutic riding instructors, therapists with horse experience and program directors. The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (800-369-RIDE) is a nonprofit organization that provides operating-center accreditation, instructor-certification classes, operating-center insurance, public relations and workshops, among other things.

In addition to NARHA, CHA -- The Certified Horsemanship Association (800-399-0138) -- also offers programs for instructor certification and safety certificates. While not specifically designed for therapeutic riding, they offer valuable, informative classes for prospective instructors and volunteers.

If you decide to get involved with a therapeutic riding organization, the rewards are many. Both volunteers and riders recount the many miracles that happen daily. When you become a part of this, it may forever change the way you look at horses and life.
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Old 01-17-2009, 08:05 AM   #2
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What a great article!

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Facilitated Growth and Learning are also areas that are exploding with credibility.
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Old 01-17-2009, 08:20 AM   #3
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I volunteer one day week at a local therapuetic riding academy. We have 2 in my town and 1 in a town just North of me. Great program. (great excercise too!!!)
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Old 02-21-2009, 08:47 AM   #4
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My BJ is being picked up the first of the week to be a Therapy horse .Granted he still has to go through their training program to get the total clearance once he gets there but I think he'll do fine.I had not clue that there was such a demand for therapy horses.I'm getting out of training myself because my heart is giving me trouble but I'm thinking about letting Morgan train another haffie instead of family ponies for her pocket money.I had 7 inquires from therapy groups alone for my boy and a slew of private owners wanting to check him out.We trained him from the ground up just to be safe and spook proof in town and in traffic but I guess what we've done applies to their programs too.Here is the fat boy....The first is his very first parade with Morgan ,she had just turned 7yrs old he was about 2yrs old.


And this winter He's about 8yrs and she's a couple months from 13yrs.



And his videos......
http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=...rt&view=videos
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Old 02-21-2009, 09:20 AM   #5
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My full time career before semi-retirement, was at a state run residential agency that served folks with developmental disabilities and other related problems.

Several years ago, as a new supervisor, I was seeking meaningful activities for the high functioning, but behaviorally challenged (and how) women in my area. We quietly planned a trip to a local rental riding place. Two of the women were heavily involved with Cerebral Palsy and I brought them along to enjoy the weather, pet the horses, and because we were too understaffed to leave them at home.

It became one of those miraculous moments one is most proud of, amazed by, you name it. Deb, the little gal who pulled herself around on the floor because she couldn't /wouldn't get up, was clearly enchanted. The owner and I decided to go one step further and put her up to " Just sit" on the horse. She indicated she wanted her feet in the stirips and the reins in hand. We complied, with tremendous caution. I thought it would make a great photo op for her scrap book. Those spastic legs relaxed, her slumped back straightened, and OMG that Grin. This young woman looked like she had been born on a horse !!!! To my knowledge, unless before she was 5 years old and institutionalized, she had never been on a horse.
Long story short, I had to stay behind with a gal who decided on that day she was afraid of all animals, butterflies included. Deb, however, ponied by one of my very experienced staff, completed the entire two hour ride and wanted more!!! After that ride, she communicated more, went camping with us, and was game for lots of things that had only been a pipe dream .l

I think the whole horse thing got her so much respect, both for herself and from others. Her frustrated tantrums had always been in the way of people understanding that her mobility , behavior, and communication issues did not mean that she had less intelligence.

Oh, did I say I think equine therapy is a good thing???
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Old 02-21-2009, 09:58 AM   #6
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I first found out about therapeutic riding when Shi was just under two years old. She had many difficulties in her young years but horses changed it all. Her first words were go, trot and whoa. She has said many times and I agree that people don't quite fully understand us but animals do. She told me so many times how horses make her feel that during her years of therapeutic riding I wrote A Spirit so Free. She just asked me the other day when she could start riding again.
I found a copy of what I wrote so folks can understand what this special riding does for the rider.
A Spirit So Free

I am me
A spirit so free
I am a child that lives in my own special way,
I learn something new everyday.
I am often misunderstood,
My mind does not work the way others say it should.
My body does not move with ease.
It really hurts when people stare and tease.
I am not always quick,
Sometimes I get kind of sick.
Who can help me,
let me see,
someone does understand me?
Who can feel my tears and
really understand my fears?
I have only one wish that I cannot say,
it is that I wish that all of this would go away.
Whenever I am at my worst,
I can turn to my friend this horse.
We have a link that he shares with me,
He too has a spirit that is so very free.
I can smile, laugh, and cry,
But he never asks why.
He seems to know just how I feel,
what to do to help me heal.
He knows that I may never be quick,
that I may always get kind of sick.
That I may never lose this pain,
For him there is nothing to gain.
He doesn't feel any shame,
and doesn't point any blame.
He is my best friend,
a free spirit till the end.
He brings out my best,
and doesn’t settle for anything less.
He helps me be me.
A spirit so free
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