What is equine therapy?
Equine therapy (therapeutic horseback riding) is a rehabilitation practice of treating severe psychophysical disorders. It’s successfully used to address the following impairments:
– infantile autism,
– Down syndrome,
– infantile cerebral paralysis,
– locomotor system dysfunctions,
– intellectual disability,
– speech disorders,
– attention deficit disorder (ADD)/hyperactivity disorder.
This rehabilitation method is widely known and used in Europe and North America. Many health care centres specializing in the treatment of such diseases usually have several horses to exercise equine therapy with their patients.
Effects of therapeutic horseback riding
Equine therapy shows many positive effects. A horse moves slowly, at the speed of a leisurely walking man. The child sitting on its back receives the motion impulse through the base of the vertebral column. It has proved to be very effective in managing locomotor system dysfunctions. Moreover, equine therapy stimulates all sets of muscles of the rider, thus positively affecting muscle tonus.
Horseback riding improves:
-sense of balance,
– mobility of the patient.
Interaction with horses – strong, gentle creatures – is good for the psycho-emotional state of the children. It helps to manage their mood swings, and kids become calmer. They feel joyful and are ready to establish new contacts with the world around. Kids feed the animals, caress them, and horses respond with kindness. Such interaction with a horse helps such children to improve their social behavior and develop communication skills, and all in all has a positive therapeutic effect on the little patients.
In 2010 on the territory of one of the rehabilitation centres of St Elisabeth Convent there appeared a stable with a couple of horses. This rehabilitation centre is situated about 30 km from Minsk in a village called Lysaya Hara (Bald Mountain). As of today more than 10 equines live in the spacious stalls of the stable. Two of them – Purga (‘Blizzard’) and Begonia, mares of average height and quiet tempre – are used for therapeutic horseback riding.
For more than 20 years sisters of the Convent have been taking care of the children with psychoneurological disorders. As soon as the horses made their home on the territory of the Convent’s rehabilitation centre, it was decided to start equine therapy lessons with special kids. Thus, in June of 2013 the first sessions were held.
Presently about 25 children take therapeutic horseback riding lessons on the premises of this rehabilitation centre. Some of them come from boarding homes for the orphaned kids with special needs. Some live in the families and come with their parents. These equine therapy lessons are free of charge and are to remain so. It’s incredible how much joy the children get from communicating with horses and riding on their backs!
Who are the Therapists?
Equine therapy sessions are conducted by certified specialists. They’ve undergone training led by Irina Urushadze, a well-known specialist and head of Ridemed (equine therapy centre in Tbilisi, Georgia).
All of the equine therapists in St Elisabeth Convent truly believe in what they are doing and confirm: it all works for the benefit of the children’s health.
In order for the equine therapy to show distinct improvements in the condition of a patient, the sessions should be held regularly. Each case should be dealt with on an individual basis. It may be enough for some to train once a week from time to time, while the others need regular therapy sessions over the span of several years.
Unfortunately, in case of the roofless riding ring in the rehabilitation centre of St Elisabeth Convent, weather conditions dictate how regularly equine therapy lessons can be held. Training stops when it’s too hot or too cold outside. The bodies of the children with special needs are not strong enough to endure harsh eather. That is why an idea came up to build a proper riding hall in St Elisabeth Convent. We are collecting donations for its construction on a crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, because we believe that together we can do anything.
If you are interested in supporting this project, click here: https://www.gofundme.com/steedsforspecialkids.