Therapeutic horseback riding is the use of the horse and equine-oriented activities to achieve a variety of therapeutic goals, including cognitive, physical, emotional, social, educational and behavioral goals. It is a special world that brings together horses, children and adults with various disabilities, caring volunteers and professionals in the equine, medical and educational fields. In the process, friendships are formed and the lives of everyone involved are enriched.
Therapeutic riding is a growing and widely-accepted treatment for rehabilitating a wide range of physical, mental and emotional disabilities. Riders experience increased self-confidence, as they learn to control the horse as well as their own body. Riders show improvement in strength, balance, coordination, attention span, language and social skills, and also receive therapeutic muscle stimulation.
During a class session, riders are asked to communicate with both their horse and the leaders or side walkers. They are asked to hold the reins and begin to learn how to control the horse. Other tasks such as riding a pattern through cones, placing cloths pins or rings on poles and touching various parts of the horse’s body, help riders follow directions and think through processes.
As the horse moves, the rider is required to contract and relax his muscles in an attempt to remain balanced. This exercise reaches deep muscles that are not easily accessible in conventional therapy. The rhythmic movement of the horse simulates the motion of walking, teaching patterns to the leg and trunk muscles. This movement also increases muscle strength, and because the rider is having fun, their tolerance and motivation for exercise are also increased. The rhythmic movement is also beneficial in reducing spasticity. Most of our classes include a trail ride, which gives the rider a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while getting plenty of the horse’s movement.
Our lessons are held in a group, which promotes social skills. Riders share a love of horses and the common experience of riding together.
Mark Skipton (Skip) is the Horsemanship Director at WBC. Skip has long had a love for working with horses and riders with disabilities. He was originally trained through NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped Assoc.). Skip also worked for Easter Seals for several years, developing riding programs for children and adults with disabilities. During the summers he gave hundreds of campers rides at the Easter Seals camps.
Our volunteers have had many hours of training in horsemanship and therapeutic riding. They are competent and compassionate individuals who love to see our riders having fun and loving on their horses while also receiving therapeutic benefits.
For more information or to Register for riding lessons email Patti Skipton, or call her: locally at (360) 652-7575 / Seattle at (425) 743-5471 / toll free in Washington at (800) 228-6724 x258