The use of animals as a form of therapy has recently grown. For a long time animals have helped us when we have needed them. Seeing Eye dogs which guide people who are vision impaired. Cats have helped people who suffered from depression and even fish help people reduce stress. Since the early 1900’s there has also been some experimentation as to the benefits of using horses for rehabilitation purposes. Horses were used as therapy for soldiers who came back home with injuries after World War I. Horses have helped people triumph over their disabilities like in the case of Olympic Silver medalist Dame Liz Hartel who was paralyzed with Polio. Horses are indeed some of the most effective tools in therapy.
Horse Therapy Today
Today horses are used to provide different types of therapy. A child who suffers from a physical disability can use horseback riding as therapy. Cerebral palsy and accidental injury victims have responded well to horse related or facilitated activities. People with low muscle density are benefited because horseback riding helps develop muscle tone so that people who could not support their own weight improve muscle tone. Posture and equilibrium are also targeted by horseback riding therapy because of the movements and dynamics of horseback riding. Horses are great in the physical aspect for people with disabilities as far as muscle and balance, but they are also great to develop a sense of independence and responsibility. That means that people with physical disabilities are greatly helped while helping themselves.
Horseback Riding as Mental Therapy
The mental therapy aspects of horseback riding are being studied more often now. When household pets such as cats and dogs were shown to be effective in the mental aspects of therapy that meant that other animals had to be studied; horses were of course the next animal to show benefits. People with emotional disabilities, autism and developmental delay respond great to horseback riding therapy. People suffering from Autism in particular show one of the best responses to the horseback treatment. The reason this type of therapy is effective is because horseback riding provides the autism sufferer with the sensory stimulation needed. The rhythm of the gallop gives the person something to focus on. As the person progresses they can be introduced to group therapy allowing for socialization skills development.
Children with emotional or psychological disorders benefit because a child is drawn to the horse. The beauty of the horse and the bond created while riding gives the child a relationship to value forever. The horse is an animal that looks for guidance from a good leader. That means the child is given an insight on the horse and how to be in charge without aggression. When the child is peaceful so is the horse, and the animal cooperates with him or her. The surprising thing about horseback riding therapy with children with mental or emotional disorders is that some of those kids can actually manage the horse better than an adult with the same amount of training on horses. The reason may be because children accept the facts given and will not try to control the horse, but rather create that bond.
The Horse Will Help
The horse is an animal that will mirror emotions. A child with emotional disorders gets to be in control by being calm and assertive. This mirroring action makes the interaction between the patient and the horse a profound one. Children and adults with Attention Deficit Disorder also benefit from this interaction as there is a need to focus on something (in this case the horse) for an extended period of time. They lead and groom the horse and that allows them to carry that same attention to other things in their normal lives. Once the patient realizes that they can achieve success with the horse, the self-esteem and focus go way up.