Adaptive Riding focuses on increasing individual riding skills while gaining a therapeutic benefit. The goals set for each rider vary as much as the riders do. Improved physical strength, muscle tone, balance, mobility and hand-eye coordination are some of the visibly enhanced skills. The more subtle improvements are fortified self-esteem, self-control and self-confidence. Peer interaction and social skills are also developed in this unique classroom setting.
Working with the parents, guardian, and/or rider, instructors establish goals for each rider at the beginning of each of our 14-week sessions. They create a wide variety of games and exercises designed to increase the student's needs. The highly individualized lesson plans take into account the rider's physical, emotional, and mental strengths and limitations. Classes include arena riding, trail rides, and group activities. All riders also work on improving their horsemanship skills. With the combination of a trusted horse, instructor and group of volunteers, riders become more willing to try new things and attain new goals.
Each week, 235 children and adults with disabilities between the ages of 2½ and 65 saddle up at Little Bit; 70% are under age 18 (median age 13). These riders represent over 70 diagnoses (many with multiple diagnoses): 45% have neurologic conditions; 20% have pervasive developmental delays, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, and similar conditions; 18% have chromosomal-genetic conditions; and 14% have non-specified significant developmental delays. Despite the various backgrounds and even more varied diagnoses, each rider gains a greater sense of control and self-confidence while experiencing a freedom never felt before.
How Therapeutic Riding Works
A horse's soothing rhythm, strength, warmth, and three-dimensional movement pattern provides healthy exercise while improving circulation and muscle tone. The discipline associated with working with horses and the social interactions between peers benefit the mind and spirit while raising self-esteem and increasing self-sufficiency through accomplishment. The unconditional love of the horses has been proved to reduce anxiety, encourage interaction and offer a haven where riders can feel a sense of empowerment.