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.