Building the Body and the Brain
Horseback riding isn’t just a leisure activity. For people with physical disabilities, it can be an important way to improve muscle tone, balance and coordination. This specialized form of physiotherapy — known as hippotherapy — uses the horse as a tool to aid in rehabilitation.
The effects of this treatment aren’t just physical. Horses provide a freedom and a sense of independence and achievement. A related therapy, known as therapeutic riding, works on these other objectives, and includes all aspects of horseback riding from animal care to learning how to ride.
Participants have the chance to learn new skills, work with others and even find employment. Visit a local school or library and you might just find some furry friends enjoying a good story too. Pets make the environment more relaxed and making reading out loud less intimidating — and what better way to develop a love of reading? Reading isn’t the only skill children can develop.
One organization, COPE Service Dogs, enlists the help of at-risk youth and adults with disabilities in their service dog training programs. These programs foster responsibility, empathy and leadership skills. In Canada and the U.S., prison inmates can also participate in puppy raising and training programs as well, helping with rehabilitation.