Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Benefits of Therapeutic Horseback Riding: From the Rider's Perspetive

Bryanna, dawned in a helmet and holding a set of reigns, is riding a horse across a sandy floor.This blog is the first installment, in a three-part blog series, where I’ll describe the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding. The main goal of this series is to raise awareness about horses, what they can do for people with disabilities, and, to encourage more people to participate in horseback riding. Many are unaware that riding is even an option. This installment in the series will focus on my emotional, physical, and sensory experiences, as a participant in a therapeutic riding program, at Quantum Leap Farm.

Bryanna is seated atop a white horse with grey spots. She is smiling and looking down at the camera.
Before I get into the meat of this post, allow me to tell you a bit about myself. I was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy, which affects my ability to walk, my fine motor skills, and my coordination. As a result, I am a wheelchair user. Since I was young, horses have fascinated me; however, I wasn’t able to fully interact with them until I turned seventeen years-old. In addition, I learned about the benefits of therapeutic riding from a family-friend. Experiencing them for myself was a different story.

Bryanna is wearing a pink shirt and black riding helmet, laughing and smiling widelyCurrently, I have been riding two Saturday’s a month, for two years. Every minute of it is an absolute joy. Riding gives me the independence I so often crave. Instead of feeling confined to my wheelchair, riding imbues me with this powerful confidence that leaves me feeling as if I can do anything. Not only does it provide me with freedom, but it also builds my strength as well. Since I began riding, my balance has greatly improved. Each lesson tests my coordination and ability to multitask, while simultaneously strengthening my body. During lessons, I participate in a variety of activities, including: obstacle courses, stretching, trail rides, dressage tests, and playing games with other participants, such as red light, green light.
Bryanna is seated atop a brown horse. They stand on a field of bright green grass, a lake behind them, a fellow horse and rider beside them
While at Quantum Leap, I find that some of the best moments I have had, occurred when I was not on a horse’s back. I help to groom the horses a few times per month, and often spend time with them after lessons. All the horses are super gentle, and absolutely love treats. Whenever I stroke their muzzles, or groom them gently with a curry comb, a calm feeling always washes over me. There is something instantly healing about the horses. Their smell, their unconditional love, the moment when their lips touch your hand to grab a treat, and that special feeling in your heart, when they come to you after you call their name, are what make horses magical to me. They are some of the greatest friends you could ask for, are great listeners, are endlessly affectionate, and are just the greatest creatures I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with.
Bryanna is reaching up to pet the nose of a brown horse. She's wearing a grey shirt, grey leggings, and a grey USF hat.
Another emotional benefit of participating in this program, is that it has introduced me to community of people, who both relate to, and support me. Until I came to the farm, I had never met anyone else with a disability. Getting the chance to know a few people with disabilities, has been very important to me. The staff are also very supportive and caring. You can come to them about any problem, and they will try their best to give you some advice. I consider everyone at the farm as my second family. Through the support of the community, I have had the pleasure of speaking about my experiences as an ambassador, in the therapeutic riding program. This opportunity is not only a chance to assist the farm in their efforts, but also to advocate for the disabled community.

Bryanna smiles on the back of a brown horse. Two women are standing on either side of them.
In conclusion, horseback riding imparts many physical, emotional, and social benefits, to persons with disabilities. These include: improving balance, giving people with disabilities a sense of community, and raising their confidence. If you, or a loved one with a disability, has the resources and would like to attempt therapeutic riding, I highly encourage you to do so. Horses have changed my life for the better, and I’m so grateful for everyone who has allowed me to have this opportunity. To learn more about Quantum Leap Farm, click here to visit their website.
A brown horse stands with its head sticking out over a gate. Bryanna reaches up to pet his nose
Additional resources
Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH)
The American Hippotherapy Association
What’s the Difference Between Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding?
Therapeutic Effects of Horseback Riding Interventions: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Utilization of Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding for Children With Disabilities as an Adjunct To Traditional Therapies

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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