I have fond memories of summers as a young teen horseback riding at a local stable. Looking back at those memories I have to smile. Never did I imagine that I would ever see dogs or cats in nursing homes or hospitals; I certainly never imagined the value of horseback riding as therapeutic. Equestrian therapy has proved to help adults and children with physical and mental disabilities in three main ways. Horse riding has improved not only their physical abilities but their mental and social abilities. Individuals with restricting physical disabilities may need a wheelchair or modified device to allow them to participate in many sports. Horse riding is very different than most sports. A few modifications may be required to mount the horse but during the ride it’s that person’s own ability that allows them to ride. Research shows that riders with leg spasms have less spasms when riding due to the warmth of the horse’s body. The rider gains great core muscle strength staying atop of the horse while riding. The movement of the horse walking closely mimics a human’s movements of walking. The movement of forward and back, side to side and the swaying of the hips allow that person to have the sensation of walking without the worry of attempting to standing. Riders benefit several different ways mentally when interacting with the horses. When a rider is mounted they are sitting very high and obstacles become smaller. They no longer look up to see or talk to someone, they get to look down to see others. They gain concentration skills and learn a routine so their horse will respond to their commands during the ride. These people with physical disabilities are now in control, many for the first time, of their life and direction. The rider is mentally stimulated unlike most of their regular daily routines. CanTRA (Canadian Therapy Riders Association) provides therapy information and locations. They also have been offering hope for families and people living with disabilities since 1980. CanTRA is a charitable organization that helps training centres and instructors throughout Canada. Research with autistic children say that when there is a bond created with an animal they view each other more positively and work together better. One German study reports that bonds with these animals create healthier people, less hospital visits and admissions. The Report claims that Germany’s health care system may save upwards of 5 billion dollars. From all accounts equestrian therapy benefits may go much farther than the measured physical and mental health issues. Riding centres with waitlists and plenty of research is proof that equestrian therapy is evident and strong. Please support your local centres whenever possible like T.E.A.D. located on Mt. Hope since 1978. Do you have any stories when an animal has made a difference to you? Please let us know we would love to hear from you   Stay safe my friends Kathryn http://tead.on.ca/ http://www.catra.net/info/overview.html http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/6-ways-pets-improve-your-health?page=2

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