Guest post by the brilliant Mike Shortridge. Enjoy!
Horses have long been used to provide therapy for both adults and children for a number of reasons as well as just for pleasure or for competing. Studies have proven the benefits of interaction between humans and horses over the years.
Horseback riding therapy holds specific benefits for adults with disabilities, providing amazing opportunities for strengthening muscles and helping with physical coordination as well as providing an enjoyable social interaction. The team at Horseseller.com.au were kind enough to give us their quick summary of some of the key therapeutic effects which horseback riding can have for adults.
1. Dexterity and fine motor skills
Riding a horse requires a lot of small movements of the muscles, particularly within the arms and hands, to help hold the reins and guide the horse. This type of movement helps to improve the manual dexterity and fine motor skills of adults. Holding the reins correctly is a task which requires nimble hand movements alone, helping to improve dexterity levels.
2. Better gross motor skill use
Both the experience of getting on and off a horse, and the rise and fall of the body as it moves to the horse’s rhythm, help to improve the rider’s muscle control. These muscle movements involve the use of gross motor skills so the more often the rider mounts up the more frequently they will be using and developing their own gross motor skills.
3. Better balance and coordination
For an adult who has coordination or balance problems due to their disabilities, horse riding is an ideal therapy. Getting on and off the horse using stirrups and reins requires coordination, while simply staying on a horse as it moves uses a lot of muscles to keep the rider in balance the whole time. Staying on the horse is vital for safety and the body needs to use all the postural muscles to help the body stay in the right position. This helps to improve posture and balance. Any riding activity such as starting and stopping the horse or changing direction, all require the body to move and adapt and use muscles to help the rider remain balanced.
4. A stronger core
The way a horse moves while being ridden requires the rider to use their leg and upper body muscles constantly to stay on board as the horse’s body sways. This gives the core of the body a really good strengthening workout every time an adult rides. Not only will the body’s coordination and balance improve but that central core strength will grow and increase the more the rider practices.
5. Better social skills development
Adults who have difficulty socialising or interacting will also benefit from horseback riding, certainly from developing a distinct bond with the horse itself, which can become incredibly powerful in a short space of time. But therapeutic horseback riding is often undertaken in groups meaning adults can interact with others in a similar position and share stories and experiences with the group, as well as with the instructors and stable staff. These groups can provide a valuable outlet for adults with disabilities who might not have anywhere else they feel they can open up about the frustrations of their condition, or about the joys of horseback riding.
6. Stimulation of the senses
For adults with sense disorders such as autism, horseback riding can be an unbelievably positive experience. Horses provide a positive stimulation to all of the rider’s senses including vision, hearing, touch and smell. The feel of the horse and the physical act of riding can help to stimulate the senses of adults with specific sensory impairments bringing them real enjoyment and appreciation.
7. General fitness levels
As well as the specific therapeutic effects outlined above it mustn’t be forgotten that horse riding is a great form of regular exercise, helping to keep fitness levels up and working large groups of muscles so for adults with disabilities who might not be able to access other kinds of fitness, horseback riding can be a great and enjoyable way to keep their physical bodies in good condition.
8. Mood improvements
Some disabilities can lead to mood problems and frustrations but horseback riding can have a calming, meditative effect. The combination of being outside in the fresh air and the focus on the rhythm of the horse can have a profound relaxing effect on the rider’s mental wellbeing as well as improving their physical condition.
Riding a horse for a hobby is a lot of fun but there is so much more to horse riding than a quick trek through the woods. Horse riding has long been known to provide great therapeutic benefits, particularly for adults with disabilities and physical problems.
From helping to elevate the mood to improving strength, posture and balance, horseback riding can be an incredibly beneficial and positive pastime.
About our Guest Writer: Mike is a freelance writer who contributes regularly for Horseseller.com.au blog. During his spare time, he likes to binge watch on his latest TV obsession and go hunting for obscure vinyl toys.
We cannot thank Mike enough for contributing to International Cowgirl Blog. His expertise will sure to be helpful to many of our readers. Do you have something you would like to featured on the blog? Get in touch! Comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we would love to hear from you!
As always, stay safe & God bless!