Therapeutic horse riding has truly changed our lives; the skills gained by riders can be transferred to varied settings and areas of life
A started riding at Avon RDA in 2017. At that time he was highly anxious and disruptive in all aspects of life. At school, he wasn't even able to access education and was spending his days in a quiet room with one-2-one support. At home he would experience frequent meltdowns and anxiety that affected our family life to the point that we weren't able to spend quality time together.
Since he started riding, I have seen many changes in him, all of which make him happier and more confident. These include:
Confidence building - suffering with any form of disability means you lack in some areas. Not being able to fulfil yourself can lead to anxiety and even depression. Horse riding provides children with easily achievable goals that are assessed frequently and expanded at the pace suitable for the rider. All this is achieved by a team of friendly volunteers that dedicate their time to coach and guide riders. Children leave every session with a sense of achievement. Being limited doesn't have to be a sentence. They learn that with practice they can reach professional levels of skill. As a result their confidence is hugely boosted.
Educational performance - skills acquired during horse riding translate to educational performance. Children already know that through regular practice they can reach goals that are challenging for them.
Physical exercise - riding a horse is a physical sport. Many disabled children are not able to access physical education. Horse riding allows them participation in weekly exercises carefully tailored to their ability. For some this is the only form of physical activity they get.
Self-control - children also take from the class self-control. In order to control the horse you have to be able to control your body. Once learned, children are aware of their impulses and behave better in class and in home environment.
Sense of belonging - having regular group of people that they can meet with has also huge impact. They learn that they are not alone in this situation and that there are different challenges for all of us. It's difficult enough to find like-minded people that you can relate to. Horse riding class creates an environment where they can find sense of belonging and sometimes friends too.
Dealing with change and crisis - horses are animated creatures and although RDA horses are carefully selected there are some situations that can't be avoided. Horse might be spooked or might need to scratch itself. Being exposed to those, children learn that the change is unavoidable and that unexpected situations can arise any time. This also teaches them that everything can return to normal and that unexpected doesn't have to be feared. They take those skills and bring with them to variety of different life situations.
Today A is attending mainstream secondary school. He works independently in the class setting. He is confident to make friends and performs well at his academic work. His behaviour at home is also hugely improved. We use horse riding as a reference in many situations. Teachers at school noticed the difference when horse riding classes restarted after the pandemic which indicates that best results can be achieved by regular repetition and continued learning.
Thank you for all your hard work and time put into making the activities accessible for children. Know that you make a difference.