Riding for Therapy (by Kaitlyn King)

kaitlyn.king-cooper%20riding%20princessMy community theme I choose for this term was Education. I used my volunteer time donating riding lessons to a four year old boy. Although he is not autistic I had found a lot of information about therapeutic riding during my research. This is where I came up with my research question. What does therapeutic riding improve with autistic children? I had so much fun with my community work giving riding lessons. I learned immensely and loved seeing all the progress. From my experience as a preschool teacher put together with my volunteer work I discovered every individual learns at a different pace. What comes natural to one person may take days, weeks, or months for another person. I learned you cannot force an issue, you have to be calm and cool as if you do not care. If you have spent time around children much you know it is ugly to force them to do something they do not want to participate in. Cooper, my four year old student in preschool and horseback riding lessons is very stubborn. When it was time to get on the horse he would throw a huge fit and cry and say he did not want to ride. We faced this every week until I decided to act like I did not care. Before I knew it Cooper was coming to his riding lesson smiling and could hardly wait to get on and ride.Many people do not realize the positive things horses alone can do to benefit autistic children. Http://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2013/03/08/horseback-riding-therapy 

A Look at the Research

Bliss, Beth. “Therapeutic horseback riding?” RN Oct. 1997: 69+. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 May 2015.

Therapeutic riding catering to many needs. Best results in disorders of cerebral palsy, down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida. Before entering this program you must have doctor approval. Just like a rehab center, they track everything and all progress. The progress that was improved include respiration, circulation, balance, and body metabolism, along with greater muscle strength and agility.

“Equine Therapy for Disabled Children.” Equine Therapy for Disabled Children. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2015

Equine therapy for disabled children shows different results in every child. Some take three months to see improvements and some take three years. In this case the child’s gets to visit the barn instead of the dreadful counselors office. “Equine therapy gives a disabled child a physically enjoyable experience (learning to ride a horse) that also helps develop muscle tone”. The child also has to learn steps to care for the horses. Caring for the animal gives the child self confidence and natural decision making.

Therapy for Disabled Children. N.P., n.p. Web. 29 May 2015.

Autism Therapy referred to “horsemanship” because they learn more than just riding. They take care of the horses needs and ride as well. It helps the child’s needs in many ways. They learn responsibility by caring for animals. Safety is the number one concern. It takes up to four people to make this possible.  In this article Dr Temple Grandin once wrote, “I wish more kids could ride horses today. People and animals are suppose to be together. We spent quite along time evolving together, and we used to be partners”.

From all the research I found every person learns at a different pace. Therefore it may take one child three months to improve significantly or it may take three years until the child shows results. The results are major, something like walking for the first time. Improvements can go from anywhere from learning to walk for the  first time or things like sensory, directed attention, social skills, motor skills, also decreases in lethargy, irritability, stereotyped behavior, and hyperactivity.

How to Get Involved

There are many places you can volunteer your time to help the community. There is a barn locally in Banks called Horsin’ around Stables that offers therapeutic riding program called BEAT. If you know of someone that could benefit from therapeutic riding I strongly encourage you to check out the outstanding efforts Horsin’ around Stables has to offer. Anyone can benefit from riding, it is worth a try for depression, anxiety, exercise, and many other things. Riding has changed my life in numerous ways, all positive. I encourage everyone to try it; I understand riding is not for everyone, but its defiantly worth a try.

With my twelve years of horse experience and the research I found I am a strong believer in therapeutic horseback-riding. Riding for therapy is so beneficial in so many ways. It helps in developing motor skills to something as big as walking for the first time. That is not all; it also can help build the confidence and self image of the child. From the volunteer work I did I saw an immense level of confidence in my student Cooper. In eight weeks Cooper went from not talking the whole lesson to chatting my ear off the whole time and telling the horse what to do all on his own. All the information from my culminating project research backed up my logic of  horseback-riding building confidence in children. It was an amazing thing to witness in the eight riding sessions I volunteered for. I will be continuing to volunteer my time to give Cooper riding lessons as often as a weekly basis. The picture attached is Cooper and I during one of the riding lessons. Enjoy!

I really enjoyed working on this project. I hope all the hard work and effort has paid off. I am excited to be continuing my volunteer work giving horseback-riding lessons.

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2 comments

  1. Steve

    Kaitlyn,
    Great post, my family volunteers for project unify http://www.specialolympics.org/projectunify.aspx and we have experienced the benefit of things like equine therapy. Autism speaks is another awesome organization! You are fortunate to be apart of that and make a difference in the lives of these wonderful people. In my experience disabled people are excellent therapy for those of us who claim to be able!
    Keep up the great work, there is no better feeling than knowing you are able to pursue your passion and help others at the same time.
    Steve

  2. Tina

    Kaitlyn~

    I really enjoyed reading your Culminating project. I have been a preschool teacher for 20+ years and have had autistic children that used Equine Therapy. 1 or 2 times a week a little friend of mine would go to the barns and just watch the horses. His Mom and Dad saw a change in him just watching them so we helped them get set up with one of the wranglers and were able to arrange for him to get closer and eventually learn to ride. I can say that I saw a difference. I cannot say exactly what happen with my little guy but his bond with that horse helped him to start talking! For a long while he would only talk to the horse. Unless he was asking for Max he didn’t use verbal communication at school. So I agree with what you are saying, and want to say good for you! It is amazing the things that animals can do for kids and with your help I have high hopes for your friend Cooper!

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