Thursday, October 10, 2019

Combining Riding Perspectives

An image of a young woman, who is wearing a blue helmet and riding a white horse. They traverse a sandy floor, within a covered riding area, followed by a lady.When discussing therapeutic riding, or just therapy in general, it’s hard to talk about medical benefits without talking about mental and social benefits. Based on their experiences, people have different perspectives on disability. As a result, people focus on certain aspects of disability more than others. In this way, health professionals, or future health professionals, like myself, tend to focus on the numbers. We tend to favor this kind of data, because they are physical changes that we can see and record. We tend to favor this kind of data, because they are physical changes that we can see and record. On the other hand, the riders aren’t worried about a 2% increase in range of motion. These individuals are more interested in their new abilities, and how they change their: feelings, interactions, and perspectives. Disability isn’t something that can be viewed as purely medical, or purely mental. In reality, it is a bit of both.
A woman is shown in blue, standing next to a dark horse with white legs, holding the reigns
Arriving at a place like Quantum Leap Farm, you can expect to deal with a few dirt and gravel roads. When you pull in, you see everyone getting ready in the stables. If you happen to get there a little early, you may be able to go over to the stables to hang out with the horses. One of the riders, Bryanna, says that it is “a great way to get your mind in the right place. Connecting with the horses allows you to focus an disconnect from the stress of the outside world.” Once your horse is chosen based on their experience and temperament, and the horses are ready to go, they will be lead out of their stables, and into the covered arena. There, you get to ride.

Two, brown saddles are shown next to each other
Each horse is “tacked up” based on the riders ability and needs. For example there are two main types of saddles: western and english. The western saddles (pictured left) have what is called a horn, which allows you to hold on if you need to. English saddles (pictured right) are your traditional saddle, and are used by people that can fully support themselves. Some people will use a surcingle, which is basically a pad with handles, to get more contact with the horse for a more challenging ride and a better stretch. As far as reins are concerned, most people either use a bridal, or snap reins, depending on their ability to control themselves and the horse.
A woman is receiving assistance to transfer from her wheelchair onto a horse's saddle. Two people are standing next to the horse, watching the transfer, while another person watches in the foreground
Once they have the saddle and reins they need, instructors will help you mount the horse. Depending on your level of experience, or how comfortable you are with the horse, this process can vary. As shown, some use a lift, while others may use a type of stepping stool to give them a bit of a boost.

The rider, wearing a pink shirt and blue helmet, is standing on a transfer platform to the left of the horse. She is bending over and resting a hand on the horse's neck. An individual is assisting her, standing next to her on the platform. Another individual is looking up at them, from the ground belowAfter you are on your horse, to get comfortable with the horse, and to help you learn the basics of riding, you start by taking a few laps around the arena. Whether it be to learn or master a new skill, work on core strength, practice a new pace, or more, every session has a bit of a different focus. Some lessons will also be done in groups, where riders cans play games or do other activities together. One of Bryanna’s favorite group activities was creating synchronized routines, almost like dancing! Within that hour-long session, you could end up doing obstacle courses, practicing different riding positions, going from a walk to a trot, or stretching, and doing upper-body exercises while riding. Each session is what you make of it, and like that of most therapies, it is molded to your wants and needs. Feel free to speak up!

Posters that describe events happening on the farm.This farm has created a riding community. I emphasize the word “community” for a reason. Riding brings people together, allowing the able-bodied to interact with people with disabilities. It also allows people with disabilities to meet and network, with other people who have disabilities.
Bryanna rides a white horse with light grey spots. It's being led by somebody outside of the picture's frameWhen talking to Bryanna, she said: “In considering my own experience, coming to the farm was the first time I had really interacted and with and formed relationships with people facing similar struggles to myself. In addition to this, we connected further because we shared a mutual love for the horses and the programs that help us to achieve so much. The staff which work at the farm are also incredibly supportive towards all the participants. They always encourage us to do our best and not to focus too much on our mistakes because every rider makes them regardless of ability. It is comforting to have their support and I think of everyone at the farm as my second family.”

Click here to get involved and learn more about Quantum Leap Farm.
Find Quantum Leap Farm on Facebook
Click here to learn more about therapeutic riding and the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship
Click here to learn more about hippotherapy through the American Hippotherapy Association at 

Images courtesy of:

Bryanna Tanase
On the left of the frame, a brown horse looks at the camera. On the right of the frame, Bryanna extends a hand toward the horses face, kissing him on the nose

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