What’s Happening during a Therapeutic Horse-riding Session?

Galway, therapeutic horse-riding, hores-connect

What’s happening during a Therapeutic Horse-riding session at Horses Connect?

You see your child being led around on a pony at a walk and you may be wondering how what we’re doing is any different to a simple pony ride.

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Reaching, stretching and crossing the body

All Horses Connect Therapeutic Horse-riding coaches are qualified, registered, insured and experienced professionals. We have been trained to utilise the movement of the horse to provide specific physical, sensory and other benefits to the rider.

We have also been trained to start from where your child is and gently build skills, confidence and abilities, without ever overwhelming or over-stretching your child. One of the ways we achieve this by playing games – because we believe that fun must be an integral part of learning.

At the start, the games will be all about reaching, stretching and crossing the body. As your child progresses, we will introduce colours, shapes, numbers, letters etc. Your child is constantly being encouraged to speak, give directions and answer questions all through the Therapeutic horse-riding session..

We work on Fine and Gross Motor Skills, coordination, strategic thinking, problem-solving, decision making, spatial awareness, sensory integration, social skills, reflexes and much more – always led by the rider’s needs, goals, interests and abilities.

Therapeutic Horse-riding, Galway, Horses-connect
Balance, core strength and coordination

While all this is happening, the horse is doing its magic.

Another integral part of learning is movement. There is a growing body of research to show that movement stimulates the brain to learn better. And that’s just one of the many benefits of sitting on a moving horse.

We never use a saddle for our Therapeutic horse-riding sessions – just a bareback pad.

The pad is for the comfort of both horse and rider. Some horses have bony backs and some riders have bony backsides! The pad is designed to allow the rider to experience the warmth and full motion of the horse’s body. The warmth helps relax and stretch tight muscles. The three-dimensional motion of the horse’s walk works in several different ways.

A walking horse transfer 110 multi-dimensional swinging motions to the rider per minute, causing the rider to instinctively adjust their position to maintain balance. Apart from what this is doing to help improve balance through their inner ear, your child’s core is working incredibly hard. A short walk down the boreen and back adds uneven ground and slight hills to the challenge. This is why some riders can’t last the full 30 minutes at the beginning. It’s also why our riding sessions are never longer than 30 minutes.

You will see the coach repeatedly walk behind the horse. The purpose of this is to check that the rider’s pelvis and spine are in alignment with the horse’s pelvis and spine – a crucial element of successful Therapeutic Horse-riding.

Sometimes we will sit a rider backwards on the horse because some children who collapse through their core when facing forwards find it much easier to sit up straight when facing backwards. The same applies to children who are inclined to tilt to the left or right. Sitting them backwards for a while allows them to continue to gain the benefits of the horse’s movement without having to work so hard to stay in alignment.

Very often, coming to the end of a session, we will lie the rider face down on the horse, with their head towards the tail. This position has many therapeutic benefits for the rider. Lying face down on a moving horse stimulates the rider’s Vagus Nerve.

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Lying face-down on a walking horse has many physical and other benefits

This is the largest nerve in the human body and is responsible for connecting the body and the brain, improving learning and memory, balancing sensory input and much, much more.

Lying face down on a moving pony is also deeply relaxing.

The warmth, rhythm and movement replicates how it felt to be carried in the womb. The rider’s hips and shoulders are mimicking the crawling movement, so it is hugely beneficial for any children who have missed that milestone.

So, while it may look like nothing much is happening and progress is slow, your child’s body and brain are working very hard and, slowly but surely, improving in so many ways. It is unlikely that you’ll see a difference week by week, but when you look back to Day 1 after at least 6 sessions you will be able to recognise subtle changes in things like posture, balance, stamina, attention span, social skills, speech and general wellbeing.

We work by appointment ONLY.

All sessions are one-to-one.

Contact us for more information or to arrange a FREE assessment

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My New Job as a Therapist

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So, there I was, minding my own business and making a fair whack of trimming the grass when I thought I heard a familiar voice calling my name.

paddy, blog, equine-assisted-therapy,therapeutic-horse-riding, galway, horses-connectSure enough, when I looked up, there was the lady with the White Head who used to sit on my back and give me treats and cuddles.

I ambled over and was delighted that she remembered exactly where I like to be scratched. I trained her well! She seemed happy to see me. There was another lady there with a Yellow Head and they were both petting and scratching me, which was very nice. They were saying nice things about me too. I believe the word used by the Yellow Head lady was ‘perfect’. I can’t argue with that!

They left and I went back to my job of trimming the grass, but the next day they came back and asked me to get in a lorry. I’m an obliging fellow so, even though it seemed a bit strange, I walked up the ramp and off we went.

Before long, the ramp was lowered and in came Realtog – a gent of a pony if ever I met one! He’s old and wise and was able to fill me in on what was happening, so I kind of knew what to expect when we arrived at the Horses Connect base in Bushypark, close to Galway city. I was going to be a Therapist!

The rest of that day was spent getting my feet trimmed and my legs and tail washed. People were fussing over me like they already knew how important I am!

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I also met another pony called O’Malley. He told me that I would be getting loads and loads of TLC, but that I would have to be extra careful of the people on my back. I’m always extra-careful of the people on my back anyway, so that will be no bother to me!

O’Malley and Realtog said the White Head and the Yellow Head ladies will teach me what I blog, Paddy, equine-assisted-therapy, therapeutic-horse-riding, galway horses-connectneed to do to work as a Therapist with them.

I did a small bit of work on Saturday with a young man who was learning to lead. He was scared at first, and he thought I would step on him, but I’d never do that!

The big smile on his face when I walked and stopped and turned when he asked me was amazing!

Realtog and O’Malley said we don’t do any work from Saturday afternoon until Thursday afternoon – or sometimes Wednesday afternoon.

I think I’m going to like being a Therapist!

 

 

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