At Porter’s Equine Centre we are honored to work with a group of special needs children from the Cobequid Educational Centre in Truro. By reading the article below by Tammi Hepworth, Teacher in charge of this program at CEC, we invite you to share some of the wonderful things these special children have accomplished through this program.
It is very true when they say, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a child.”
Special Needs Students and Therapeutic Riding
Cobequid Educational Centre
By Tammi Hepworth
What is Therapeutic Riding?
Therapeutic horseback riding is for children and adults with all forms of challenges.
Our Goal at CEC:
Our goal is to enhance the quality of life for our students by improving their physical, mental, and emotional well being with the help of wonderful horses. Therapeutic Riding or Hippotherapy is a widely accepted method of improving the physical and mental well-being of people with special needs. Hippotherapy comes from the Greek words for horse and cure. These aims are achieved as the rider experiences the rhythmic swinging motions of the horse, (also known as “Hippotherapy”) as the horse is led around the arena.
Riding provides general exercise, recreation and sense of achievement. In addition, riding provides independence from artificial aids such as crutches and wheelchairs allowing access over uneven ground, in fields and forest where new sights, sounds and smells stimulate the senses.
The aims of therapeutic riding include balance improvement, coordination development, mobilization of stiff joints, development of weak muscles, prevention of contractures, improvement of circulation, relaxation of spasticity, development of self-esteem and independence, and recreation. We have seen many benefits thus far including improved balance and mobility. Increase in strength and muscle toning. Increase in self image and trust. Improvements in language, attention span / focus, calmness, and being able to retain information. Additional benefits include improved learning, concentration, spatial awareness and overall relaxation of the body and the mind.
This program began at CEC four years ago. Funded by the HPS Committee as well as some additional in-school fundraisers we have seen the program grow in popularity and in the benefits to our students.
What do the students do?
In the spring time, Students are driven by bus to Porter’s Equine Centre in Stewiacke, NS. Their day begins with grooming the horses. A group of 2-4 students enter a stall of a friendly horse. Here they are able to learn about brushing, grooming, cleaning hoofs, and general horse care. The actual therapy begins here. As soon as students put their hands on the animals there is a special kind of calming and bonding that begins. Students are able to touch, talk to and befriend the animals.
After the horses have been groomed, Porter’s staff and volunteers assist in tacking up the animals with bridles and saddles. Once the horses have been outfitted and led to the huge indoor arena, students are able to put on a helmet and mount these magnificent animals. Each student and horse have anywhere between 2-4 people on all sides leading or walking beside them as they are led around the arena. Students are taught how to hold the reins and sit properly as well as voice commands for the horse. As time progresses, students may actually work up to a slow trot on the horse. Students are challenged while on the horse while performing exercises that involve their balance, courage and trust.
Several times throughout the riding season, our students are also benefitted by experiencing rides on a horse drawn carriage. Volunteers and Porter’s Equine Centre continually make miracles happen for our Special Needs students participating in this unique and beneficial program.