Preparing Your Horse for Pediatric Therapeutic Riding Equipment
Equine therapy, or therapeutic horseback riding, has become popular with families of children with physical and developmental disabilities. A recent study shows that a 10-week therapy course can provide significant improvement in children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. If you have a horse and you are interested in helping with this type of therapy, there are some unique pieces of horseback riding equipment your horse will need to get used to. Here are some of the different types of equipment used in therapeutic horseback riding.
Depending on a child’s disabilities, he or she may need to use an adaptive saddle. These saddles are designed to help keep the child sitting in a safe, upright position while riding. They can be a bit more cumbersome than traditional saddles, and your horse will need to learn how to walk while wearing them. You can get your horse slowly adjusted to these saddles by practicing with them for a half hour each day, gradually working up to longer lengths of time.
Mounting ramps help children who are wheelchair bound or who have difficulty with gross motor skills. These children may not be able to use the traditional method of mounting a horse. The ramp lets them walk or roll up to the horse for effortless mounting. You will, however, need to teach your horse to remain calm while standing next to the ramp so the child using it doesn’t get scared.
Therapeutic Riding Bolsters
Not every person who uses horseback riding therapy will be able to sit in a saddle. Some children have difficulty with muscle control, making it difficult or impossible to sit up long enough to enjoy horseback riding. Therapeutic riding bolsters help these children enjoy riding a horse but allowing them to lie on the horse’s back with the aid of a large, specially designed pillow. While your horse may need to get used to having children lie down on its back, the bolsters are actually quite comfortable. You may even find that your horse enjoys the bolsters more than traditional saddles.
Once your horse is used to the special equipment that goes along with therapeutic horseback riding, found at stores like The Riding Store, you can begin to practice some of the different techniques used to help kids with developmental and physical disabilities. You and your horse may find this line of horseback riding to be particularly satisfying.