Down syndrome is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, often leading to mental retardation.*
One of my students, named James, is eleven years old and has Down syndrome. He speaks one word utterances, has low muscle tone and can be strong-willed and antisocial. When I first started working with James (in August 2007) he had difficulty cooperating with directions and following instructions.
During the thirty minute lesson we work on following basic one and two step directions by playing fun 'games' on horseback. These games can include transferring pool rings from tall poles to various areas around the arena, doing puzzles on horseback, blowing bubbles, or simply taking a favorite stuffed animal for a 'ride'. All these activities not only work on James' overall muscle tone and willingness to follow directions, they also help develop gross and fine motor skills. During James' lesson we also emphasize speech, working to increase James’ vocabulary to more than one word at a time.
Because Therapeutic Riding is a social setting, James interacts not only with me and his horse, but a horse leader, sidewalker, and numerous other students and volunteers as well; James has been stretched to be a more social child, while still maintaining a sense of comfort and security atop his very own horse. All of this has worked to bring out a more joyful willing child. James is willing and able to focus for ever increasing amounts of time. He has also improved in muscle strength, progressing from a smaller slow horse, to one with a larger more active gait. These results would be much harder to accomplish without the dynamic atmosphere of therapeutic riding and of course the horse that makes it all possible.
Sarah Newton-Cromwell is a NARHA Certified Instructor for over 5 years and is the Program Coordinator at REINS
Written by Sarah Newton-Cromwell Last Updated on Thursday, March 04, 2010