Our journey through autism

Posts tagged ‘equine’

Horse Riding

Back in Janurary I wrote this about Equine Therapy at the time I didnt know that there was a difference between hippotherapy and something called theraputic riding.

Hippo-therapy or equine therapy is done by a certified physical therapist and they carry out physical therapy but the horse is an aid for skill learning and they carry out all their goals but atop the horse. They sit backwards or sideways for balance training, they stick their arms out, they lean forward, sideways or backwards to grab items etc.

Therapeutic Riding is riding a horse as best as an individual can with their disability, they learn riding safety, compassion towards the horse and they create a bond with the horse and the whole experience helps calm a child on the spectrum. The teacher isnt a certified therapist just someone with knowledge and experience both with horses and special needs. Theraputic riding is more widespread and common.

Both are beneficial to a child on the spectrum but hippotherapy is more intense, and because of the presense of a certified therapist it is almost always covered by insurance.

Bilal was doing theraputic riding as Lynn Bretcht isnt a certified therapist I asked her about the difference between the two, she explained it to me and said that even though she isnt certified she was still carrying out the same goals as in hippotherapy, her son Dustin has Downs and was in therapy growing up, he did/does Speech, OT, and PT and she used to observe his sessions and took ideas to use with horse back riding. So technically Bilal was doing theraputic riding but it was more like hippotherapy.

Children’s Therapy Works (CTW) the center where Bilal takes his OT and PT trained their physical therapists in hippotherapy and riding, and in April started giving sessions at a farm. Worried that Bilal would have a repitition of services between CTW and Bretcht Stables I told Lynn that she could teach Bilal basic horse back riding skills and no longer offer him therapy as he will be getting that with CTW, she agreed and we got him riding boots and he’s learning to “post” and steer, he may learn a bit slower but as she had 3 months with him in therapy she knows him well and can adapt his learning to fit him.

The only difference between what he was learning and what he’s now doing is in hippo is that instead of sitting in a saddle with stir-ups he’s just sitting on a saddle blanket, its much harder and this teaches him balance and really strengthens the hip/waist and core muscles. I think doing both hippo and horse back riding lessons has greatly strengthened Bilal’s core and posture and maybe one day he can be a rider maybe compete in special Olympics or other competitions.

Equine Therapy

Also known as hippo-therapy which basically is horseback riding therapy, it is a well known and accepted therapy for those on the autism spectrum. Horseback riding in itself teaches discipline, strength and posture while the movement of the horse teaches the child balance. Dealing with the horse teaches the child compassion towards animals and how to treat them nicely. Used as therapy they also include brushing the horse before and after riding as a sensory stimulation, the child helps with the saddle for fine motor skills, on the horse they have the child use his words to command the horse to “go” and “stop”, they have the child hold on with 1 hand or no hands (for balance and vestibular training), they had little games of stopping the horse leaning down and picking up a toy and dropping it off at another area, the therapists would describe the toy or animal for speech therapy, they also had him throw bean bags into a bucket from atop the horse and pick rings and slide them on horizontal poles. They also let the child ride backwards for awhile also for balance and vestibular training.

Bilal has been in speech and OT for 4 months now and making a lot of progress alhamdullah mashaAllah so we decided we could move onto something else, something beneficial but also fun, so we looked into horseback riding. Last month we had gone to a county fair and they had pony rides and Bilal loved it, he sat tall and held the saddle on his own and had a lot of fun so therapy would be great. When we got to the farm and he could see all the horses in the distance he got really excited and rushed into it, no apprehension towards the new therapists and he followed all directions really well. So we’ve decided to continue with it, an hour a week every weekend weather permitting inshaAllah it will be of benefit to him.

I found the therapy location through the Autism Speaks resource guide website. It’s called Brecht Stables and Dustin’s Place, it was founded by a mother of a child (Dustin) with Down’s Syndrome to teach children with disabilities. It is in Cumming, GA. She has a website, Facebook page (lots of pictures of the farm, horses and her family), and Twitter account.

In Islam there is a Hadith (a saying for the Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him) in which he said “Teach your children swimming, archery and horse riding”  it means that children should grow up fit and knowledgeable of such recreational activities, which at the time were essential to survival, now it could be adapted to mean swimming and car driving but horseback riding is still important as the benefits are so many for children with disabilities and for those typically developing.

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