A network to share best practices for children with special needs
What's summertime without an outdoor adventure like horseback riding? For many kids with special needs, this is not only a summer pastime, but also a year-round activity. Children can engage in Hippotherapy which usually involves a one-to-one ratio with an OT, PT or SLP working with the child on a horse with specific therapy goals. Kids can also participate in therapeutic horseback riding which is more of a group session designed to provide adapted recreational riding. Click here for more information on the two different equestrian approaches. I volunteered for a short stint at an equine facility several years ago, and, to this day, I can still recall the magic that occurred between horse and rider. One part of the lesson was when the child helped groom the horse (the specific direction, movement and type of brush all provide wonderful opportunities to work on upper-extremity range of motion, strength and crossing the midline). During an actual horseback ride, the kids would practice balance and trunk rotation by reaching for and placing objects on target. I witnessed seemingly stubborn and/or spirited animals transform into calmer ones once a child with special needs was in their presence and vice versa. Children with behavior or attention issues appeared calmer and more focused as well. Here are a couple of ideas for your favorite riders:
The stable where I volunteered had one, old wooden stool in the barn for the kids with balance/ambulation challenges to use to sit on or lean against. We added the Height Right Chair (item # 1328341) as another option. It gives better seated stability and support for kids when doing chores such as grooming.
SecureSTEP (item # 1387311) is also a good option if a child can stand during chores and/or as a leg up assist.
Beanbags (Item #026664) toss activities are fun to use during the riding session. Have your kids reach for a bean bag then toss it into a bucket or place it into an elevated mailbox to work on balance/righting reactions, reach, grasp and release.
Path International may help you locate a riding facility in your area. Please share your adventures in working with children and horses. We look forward to your stories!