The value of animals in therapeutic intervention with children and adults with special needs, is well documented and widely practiced in many countries.
Activities together with animals provide a means of escape from everyday challenges and because animals are not verbal – relationships can be built up without a sense of fear or rejection.
A cornerstone of Horizon Farm’s (HFT) philosophy has always been Therapeutic Riding. It has been proven over thousands of years that animals and the intellectually or physically challenged have a deep affinity and that continued exposure of the two together has long lasting and amazing benefits for those so challenged. Equine therapy/Therapeutic Riding, also known as equine-assisted therapy (EAT), is a treatment that includes equine activities or an equine environment to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth in persons with ADHD, anxiety, autism, cerebral palsy, dementia, depression, developmental delay, genetic syndromes, traumatic brain injuries, behavioural issues, abuse issues, PTSD and the like. Since horses have similar behaviours to humans, such as social and responsive behaviours, it is easy for the patients to create a connection with the horse.
It was Winston Churchill who said “There is something about the outside of a Horse that does something to the inside of a Man”.
Therapeutic Riding / Horse Therapy
The value of horse riding for persons with physical disabilities has been historically known as early a 460 BC in the time of the ancient Greeks!
The Psycho social benefits – self concept, self confidence, self-esteem, motivation, attention span, special awareness, listening skills, verbal skills etc have become better understood over the past few decades with “horse therapy” now a world wide phenomenon.The success of using a horse as a therapeutic modality is based on shared activity, with physical communication which is both ordered and rhythmical. The exercise that is generated reaches muscles which are not always easily accessible in conventional therapy. It is a movement therapy that cannot be simulated through a mechanical device and which naturally results in physical benefits including:
Development of muscles and dexterity
Postural control • Gross and fine motor
Development of lumbar curve, low muscle tone, head and neck control
Gross and fine motor
Joint mobility, agility, range of motion
Equilibrium and balance
The Programme at Horizon Farm Trust
Apart from time spent caring for the animals at the farm – which include the horses, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, and numerous ducks and chickens
Having made the decision to upgrade our whole Equine therapy programme contact was made with Tracey Cummings of the South African Riding for the Disabled Association (SARDA) and with their assistance we have progressed greatly. Through SARDA's assistance we have found a qualified Hippo Therapist/Occupational Therapist plus SARDA qualified instructor, Anne Tait, who comes in to the farm three times a week for a period of 4 hours and the results have been excellent. Anne further provides exercises that are carried out during the week whilst riding. Furthermore, one of our residents, Carryn Guinee who has a special affinity with the horses has, through hard work and study, even qualified as a Professional Groom and is studying towards her 3rd SARDA certificate.
Formal outrides with the horses on lead-reigns are taken 2 or 3 times a week and any of our beneficiaries can choose to ride or lead one of the horses to the nearby Giba Gorge Park.
Youngsters from special and standard schools also participate in our riding opportunities and through this we also encourage interaction with our residents.A comment from one of our resident’s parents: “Had we not involved our son in the horse programme 3 years ago, we believe that he would now be in a wheelchair. The body-core strength gained by my son has been amazing since he joined the programme – thank you Horizon Farm”. We have recently received a fantastic donation from Old Mutual for the relocation and rebuilding of our horse stables. With these funds we will be able to build phase 1 of this project - thank you Old Mutual. We are currently fundraising for the balance needed.