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Why Horses Are the Best Therapy for My Daughter With Cerebral Palsy

Megan L
Megan's daughter on a horse. Her wheelchair sits nearby with a sign on it -- "Gone Riding."

Horses offer some of the best therapy on the market. Over the past year, our daughter has gotten involved in equine assisted therapy. This is sometimes referred to as Hippotherapy. We never knew how much potential this type of therapy holds!

Therapeutic riding offers multiple benefits to individuals with disabilities ranging from autism to cerebral palsy. There are so many physical, emotional, cognitive, speech and sensory benefits to offer. A horse’s pelvis moves almost identically to a human’s. As an individual is riding, the movement of the horse promotes three-dimensional motion of the rider’s pelvis — forward, backwards and side to side. It also promotes reciprocal motion of the hips as the horse turns and walks in different directions. Add in fun activities such as throwing a ball or placing rings on a pole and your child is developing fine motor skills along with additional stretching.

Naming the activities, colors and animals you see while riding promotes speech and conversation skills. Not to mention the sensory benefit of all the sounds, sights and smells the rider experiences during a lesson. All the while, the disabled rider is enjoying a pleasant ride on a horse and the focus on the pain from stretching fades away as the benefit of the exercise grows.

Related:The Importance of Seeing the World Through an Inclusion Lens

Our 5-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy (CP) started riding a little over 6 months ago at a program called GAIT in Temecula, California and the progress she has made is incredible! About a year ago, she was becoming very resistant to her physical therapy and stretching. It hurt. It wasn’t fun. She would rather being doing other activities. Unfortunately this manifested in poor hip development and we were told to prepare for a major hip surgery. This surgery would have involved a long hospital stay and 16 weeks in a cast from her armpits to her toes.

Desperate to find another way, our daughter began therapeutic riding and now I am happy to report that she no longer needs surgery! Not only is her hip development heading in the right direction, she is also showing more interest in standing and wanting to learn to walk! We are so grateful to have found this wonderful therapy and love the opportunity to spread awareness of the benefits of therapeutic riding.

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