Here’s a post on the benefits of horseback riding for special needs riders. If you are interested in scheduling a ride for your autistic or special needs rider, or if you are an autistic individual looking for an engaging activity, please call (512) 230-8413 for more information.
“Autism and Horseback Riding”
Riding horses is a scientifically proven way to stimulate the neuromuscular abilities of people with disabilities. While mounted on a walking horse, the rider participates in the swaying hip motion and the balance and upward posture required were they themselves doing the walking. Similar to how, for four-limbed animals with disabilities, they are often first taught to swim in order to practice the motions, and build confidence, for walking independently.
Besides the therapeutic benefits of riding a horse, simply being around a big calm and warm animal can aid in relaxation. Participating in feeding or grooming a horse can help with joint range of motion, as well as the psychological benefits of caring for another creature.
An eight week study in 2001 by G. Land, E. Errington-Povalac, and S. Paul (Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 14(1), 1-12) of people with disabilities riding horses found “significant change in four out of eight measures of sitting posture.” Riding certainly helps with a wide variety of disabilities, but it’s benefits for autistic riders in particular are well-documented. The Wikipedia article on Therapeutic Horseback Riding, says that the activity is proven to “benefit the communication, motor skills, and social skills of an autistic person. It also causes improvement in responses to verbal and external stimuli and relaxation.”
There is an entire therapy, called Hippotherapy, devoted to essentially using horses as a tool to set physical goals for the rider. This can be expensive, but like other therapies may be covered by your medical insurance. Therapeutic riding, on the other hand, could be as simple as going to a stable or camp equipped and informed to accommodate the disability. They will have volunteers to sidewalk and assist in leading the horse and ensuring the rider’s safety.
Horses are companion animals, and while there are many scientific reasons that the motions and verbal actions and etcetera involved in riding them aids in all manner of physical development, it is also certainly true that spending time with them in a more casual sense, grooming them, petting them, can have dramatic and inspirational emotional benefits that aren’t so easy to predict or quantify.
Check out MaverickHorsebackRiding.com