REINS provides therapy to nearly 200 students with a wide variety of conditions. Here is what our Occupational Therapist, Carrie R. Jacobs M. OTR/L. has to say about our program:
REINS Therapeutic Horsemanship program is an amazing organization! The instructors, volunteers and staff are extremely committed to addressing the unique needs of each client they work with. The staff is constantly in a learning posture, frequently attending the latest courses and sharing the information they have learned with the rest of the team, making their interventions more therapeutic. Individuals with various types of disabilities benefit from participation in REINS therapeutic horsemanship program. REINS works with clients who have disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy, attention deficit disorders, down syndrome, sensory processing disorders, motor and cognitive developmental delays, autism, multiple sclerosis, spinal chord injuries and brain injuries to individuals with visual impairments, hearing impairments, and seizure disorders.
Lesson plans and treatment sessions focus on addressing specific component areas like muscle strengthening, endurance, trunk control, postural stability, balance, fine motor control, gross motor control, oral motor control, hand- eye coordination, motor planning, sequencing, cognitive function, and sensory processing. Utilizing this therapeutic approach the ultimate goal of the program is that our students will achieve physical and cognitive goals more rapidly and become more independent with their activities of daily living as well as learn to ride a horse. Additionally, the activity of horse back riding in and of itself promotes quality of life; exercising in the great outdoors, socializing with others, and bonding with an animal.
The horse is a unique therapeutic tool that cannot be simulated in the clinic. The rhythmic motion of the horse facilitates typical movement of the human pelvis (anterior and posterior movement), thereby automatically activating abdominal muscle movement. Further, riding on a bend causes automatic weight shift, lateral flexion and extension of the trunk. Turning, bending, stopping and starting the horse facilitates postural shifts and frequently initiates righting reactions in the rider. Changing the client’s position on the horse and intentionally using the horse’s gait, muscle tone can become more normalized. A fast paced trot can decrease hypotonicity and activate muscles where a slow smooth walk can reduce hypertonicity and relax an individual’s muscles. For the client this gained muscle strength and/ or control transfers to increased postural stability and core strength for activities like walking or sitting upright at a desk. When an individual has a strong core base they are more effectively able to use their neck, head and then their visual system. Trunk strength also lays the foundation for more skilled use of the upper extremities and lower extremities for fine motor and gross motor coordination tasks.
During lessons meaningful and purposeful activities are used with the client based on their interests and needs to further refine fine motor, gross motor, bilateral coordination, oral motor and visual motor skills. For example, an adult client who previously rode dressage and is recovering from a stroke’s lesson would focus on bilateral coordination and higher level riding skills. During a younger child’s lesson games would be used as a therapeutic tool like playing a puzzle, blowing bubbles or shooting baskets. With an older child needing assistance with upper extremity strengthening and use, sequencing and visual spatial skills- steering through an obstacle course with staggered poles, a climbing bridge, barrels and retrieval of an object from a mailbox would make up part of their lesson, identifying grooming tools and grooming the horse may make-up another part of their lesson. An individual with sensory integration deficits lesson may focus on riding backwards, changing positions while they are on a horse, petting the horse, preparing bran or carrots to feed to the horse.
Consulting at REINS has allowed me to work closely with the entire staff. Our collaboration has created more therapeutic individualized lesson plans and treatments. The staff and instructors have always been open to new interventions to make their lessons more effective, therapeutically beneficial and fun for their clients. The air at REINS is always filled with good spirit, client laughter, and professionalism.
Consulting Occupational Therapist for REINS
To read about specific examples of how therapeutic riding benefits people, click here to go to our Testimonials Page.
Written by REINS Staff Last Updated on Friday, March 05, 2010