Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Benefits of Therapeutic Horseback Riding

I have spent the last few years of my life trying to combat chronic pain. What I’ve learned recently is that much of my pain is connected to my body’s misalignment. The misalignment is due to poor posture and holding my body in improper ways for much of my life.

This problem is very common in the blind community because we don’t have visual cues to help us with our posture. I recently came across an article that highlighted the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding, so I decided to do some research. What I discovered is that using horses for therapy can be beneficial for the blind at any stage in their lives.

According to a 2000 Future Reflections article from the NFB, “Beyond the freedom and self-confidence that is gained by riding, visually impaired children reap tremendous physical benefits, as well. Posture is often affected when a child is blind or has low vision. Some children tend to carry their head tilted upward, stretching their neck muscles, and throwing their shoulders back. Conversely, some children tilt their head downward causing their shoulders and chest to slump forward and cave in. These “blind postures” affect more than muscle and bone development. Posture translates into body language for the seeing world. A visually impaired child cannot pick up on the subtle cues of how others carry themselves. They must be taught how it feels to stand tall with square shoulders and head up and forward. An individual’s posture significantly impacts balance when horseback riding. Likewise, riding can significantly impact one’s posture, and therefore balance, in a very positive way.”

One of the exercises used is called weaving. This encourages the rider to keep themselves balanced while the horse is zinging back and forth. Riding a horse also helps the rider keep a proper gate which will lead to fewer body problems in the future. Along with the physical benefits, participants also improve their social skills and navigational skills.

There are organizations across the country that provide therapeutic horseback riding programs. To find a program in your area you can visit the PATH International website. There, you can learn more about therapeutic riding and how to get involved. To search for a center near you visit this link: http://www.pathintl.org/path-intl-centers/find-center

To read the full article from the NFB Future Reflections visit this link: http://nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/fr/fr19/Issue1/f190110.htm

Although I have never had the opportunity to participate in one of these programs, I hope that I will someday. If you’ve had experience with therapeutic horseback riding, please share it in the reader’s forum.

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