“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” This is a quote from Anthony Robins, an American life coach, self-help author and motivational speaker. Children with disabilities are often frustrated with the amount of mistakes it may take before they see progress.
Children who are at risk are finding success with physical and emotional issues through the equestrian exercises. Therapeutic horseback riding reflects the successful treatment of children with disabilities. This paper will discuss the benefits of skill building and goal setting. It will also explore the physical benefits therapeutic horseback riding has on disabled children.
The family of a new rider and the instructor decide on what goals a child with disabilities can reach. These goals would be like improving posture or increasing speech fluency. Goals vary from child to child as a way to meet their specific goals. “Bobby” stutters. Therapeutic horseback riding can help him by riding a horse around the arena and calling out the numbers that are posted as he passes them. Sammy, a six year old with cerebral palsy, has a goal of sitting up straight. Her goal is to stay on the horse without aid from support staff. As she progresses, Sammy is instructed to move certain body parts that will test her balance.
Finding out each child’s weaknesses helps improve goal setting because goals are based on what they need improved. Beth Fox, director, stated, “We consult with the rider, caregiver, or family member, and determine the goals – cognitive, physical, social, emotional – and then set up the lesson accordingly” (“Horse Riding”). Goals gives the kids something to work for. They feel accomplished when they are done riding. Even if their goal isn’t met, they still have the experience of riding a horse and being independent.
When a child with special needs and disabilities goes through a therapeutic horseback riding program, they have multiple skill building exercises they go through, such as verbal skills, confidence building, and physical abilities. “We want to make horseback riding fun and educational, but then we want to incorporate some skill-building or achievement” (“Horse Riding”). Without the help of the volunteers and instructors the students would not accomplish their set goals.
Another skill gained from horseback riding is relationship building. Being involved with other riders who have disabilities and the staff gives them a sense of belonging and community. A disability will often times isolate a young child with disabilities. They may feel different from children without disabilities because they cannot do the same things. Occasionally their disability isolates because of their physical needs, it often times keeps them from playing sports or attending social functions where other children can make social connections.
Riders learn to connect with Volunteers; a student has to communicate...