Therapeutic Horse Riding for Cerebral Palsy

Horse riding for patients with cerebral palsy is a new therapeutic activity that can significantly benefit the patient with the warmth, motivation, shape and rhythmic motion of a horse throughout out his or her lifetime.

Therapeutic horse riding or equestrian therapy can help in the development of cognitive and sensory-motor of a child while enhancing sense of responsibility as well as self-confidence in an adolescent. It can also provide fair play while serving as a recreation and an enjoyable sport.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a condition which is a result of brain damage. It occurs during and after birth.Cerebral palsy may also be caused by head injuries.

A person with cerebral palsy cannot fully control motor function and suffer from tonal problems, spasms, disturbance in gait and mobility, seizures, mental retardation, involuntary movement, impairment of hearing, sight or speech as well as abnormal sensation and perception. Muscles of people with cerebral palsy are stiff and it is hard to relax these muscles thus making the characteristics of a horse or therapeutic horse riding helpful for people suffering from this condition.

Horse therapy for cerebral palsy

A horse used in therapeutic horse riding with its good symmetrical movements can help riders with cerebral palsy to obtain a normal balance as well as good posture and movement. A long or slow approach as guided by an instructor has been found to be more effective in achieving better posture and alignment for the patient.

The instructor is careful that his or her guidance or technique would not lead to increased tone or provide discomfort to the riding individual. The instructor constantly asks the rider how she or he feels during or even after the session.

The muscles of the rider must always be relaxed to achieve comfort for the patient such that his or her stability when riding the horse is good.

A horse which walks smoothly and with a wider base would be more effective while the use of a saddle with a suede or synthetic cover is considered more effective.

Choosing the right horse for therapy

The choice of a horse in therapeutic horse riding for people with cerebral palsy is essential especially when the patient has limitations in motion particularly at the hips and knees.

A certain type of horse is needed for patients with partially dislocated hip.

A horse with a natural shape and movement not suited for this physical defect can worsen subluxation.

Consultation with a physical therapist who can coordinate with an instructor and advice in the creation of a fitting riding program is suggested when the rider with cerebral palsy suffers from orthopedic problems particularly at the spine or hips.

Photo credit: State Farm on /CC BY

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