Cerebral Palsy is a number of non-progressive motor disorders with impairment of voluntary movement.
With people who have C.P. or disabilities like C.P., therapeutic riding instructors try to develop balance and coordination to help strengthen weak muscles. One example is by using a horse with slow, steady movements. The warmth of the horse's body helps to relax the rider's body. Using different positions such as putting the student on backwards, side-saddle, and "sleeping Indian" style helps to exercise different muscle groups, as well as stimulate the vestibular systems and fine/gross motor skills. To encourage concentration the instructor may play games, or use toys to catch the riders attention. If the rider cannot sit up of stabilize themselves, the instructor will sometimes ride with the student to assist them in sitting up properly. No matter what position the student rides in, they are still feeling stimulation in all of the body's muscle groups, and stimulating the neurons in their brain. Therapeutic riding provides both physical therapy as well as a kind of mental therapy. Most of our students spend a great amount of time in hospitals and clinics doing various types of therapies and surgeries. Therapeutic riding lets our students escape into the wilderness for a short time and feel free and have fun!
Sarah, an eight year old little girl with C.P., has greatly benefited from horseback riding. When she started she could not sit up on her own at all. After riding for almost 4 years, Sarah can now sit up and hold on to the handle by herself. She enjoys laying down on the horses back to rest while looking up at the trees above her. Sarah's favorite thing is riding backwards while weaving the poles and doing circles around the colorful barrels. We are all looking forward to seeing all the great improvements that Sarah can make.
Jessica Swenson is a NARHA Certified Instructor and has been an Instructor at REINS for over 6 years.
Written by Jessica Swenson Last Updated on Thursday, March 04, 2010