Therapeutic riding serves people with almost any physical, emotional, cognitive, or behavioral disability. I could keep this series going all year and probably barely scratch the surface of who therapeutic riding benefits. I decided to focus on these five disabilities because they are some of the most common needs we serve in the therapeutic riding industry.
We will wrap up this series talking about cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a blanket term for disorders that affect a person’s ability to move. People with CP may struggle to maintain balance and posture, may have difficulty with fine motor skills, and may have muscle weaknesses. This is where horseback riding can help, as long as the client does not have a contraindication to mounted work.
Today, more than ever, it is important to check in with yourself. As caregivers, we need to protect ourselves from the daily grind of our work. At the PATH, Intl. National Conference there was a session on preventing burnout and safeguarding your own mental health. I previously wrote a post about self-care here but today I want to talk about finding support.
In therapeutic riding, we often see clients who have issues with muscle tone. Hypertonia and hypotonia are two terms used to describe muscle tone. Hypertonia means high muscle tone and lack of flexibility. This often involves stiff movements and poor balance. Hypotonia means low muscle tone and too much flexibility, which can result in difficulty lifting limbs or struggling with fine and gross motor activities.
Therapeutic riding can help both hypertonia and hypotonia as long as there are no contraindications to riding.
Today, I am continuing our disabilities series today with Down Syndrome.
Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder that is commonly associated with developmental delays, poor muscle tone, and cognitive impairment. Early therapy interventions can have a positive impact on children with Down Syndrome. Therapeutic horseback riding may be one such intervention used to help with physical, cognitive, social, and behavioral issues.
Please note: therapeutic horseback riding is NOT therapy unless it is done under the supervision of a therapist in hippotherapy settings.
Most therapeutic riding horses are older and their work does not typically involve balance and bend work. The horses are asked to walk in straight lines or wide turns or listen to a beginner rider just turning their head. Outside of therapeutic riding, horses would usually have a warm-up and cool down period, do neck stretches and back stretches, and bend to a centered, balanced rider. We need to give our therapy horses a little extra care to make sure they stay healthy and happy.