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Since the last few decades, physiotherapists, and doctors are increasingly incorporating a peculiar yet effective form of therapy to help people with a wide range of disabilities and health conditions. Therapeutic horse riding is now being seen as a progressive therapy that can help instill self-confidence, positivity, responsibility, and team spirit in special needs children and adults. Besides this, horse riding is in itself an enjoyable experience.
Riding a horse requires one to balance his body and coordinate his moves with the horse. From the start, the riders are taught how to balance their body and move according to the movement of the horse, which in return stimulates their muscles.
Carefully planned therapeutic horseback riding sessions can help improve the strength, posture, and flexibility of the body and develop a strong sense of responsibility and belongingness.
As a rider becomes more comfortable riding the horse alone, it instills a strong sense of corporation and teamwork. Eventually, as one starts participating in various horse shows and competitions, he/she experience accomplishment and is encouraged to achieve more.
Let’s look into some physical benefits of this form of therapy:
When the horse moves forward, the movements unbalance the rider. The rider’s muscle contract and relax as he tries to rebalance the body and stay atop. Through this exercise, the muscles that are located deep down in the body, which cannot be reached usually get stretched. Additionally, the three-dimensional rhythmical movement a horse makes is similar to the motion creating during walking. The rhythmical pattern produced due to the movement of the horse teaches rhythmical patterns to the muscles present in our trunk and legs.
It takes a lot of muscle strength to balance on a horse; thus, it is an excellent exercise for increasing muscular strength. Since riding is perceived as a fun activity instead of a workout, the rider is motivated to exercise for long.
Horse riding is a great way to improve reflexes and motor planning. Horses are quick to respond to every cue a rider gives, therefore, riding a horse requires a lot of coordination. The patterned movements required to control a horse helps in making the reflexes fast and improves motor planning.
Before riding on a horse, one needs to stretch their adductor muscles present in the thighs. To stretch the muscles, the rider is first made to mount on a narrow horse, gradually practicing on wider horses. Since when riding or staying balanced on a horse, one must have an upright posture, the stomach and back muscles in the body get stretched.
The rhythmic motion of the horse helps in reducing spasticity. Studies have shown that the warmth of the horse has a relaxing effect on our body. Sitting across the horse helps in soothing lower limbs extensor spasms while holding the reins aids in breaking flexor spasm on the upper limbs. Several vaulting positions help in reducing spasticity. With reduced spasticity, the range of muscle movements and motions increases.