Hippotherapy


Hippotherapy?

Having recently visited my fiancé Karen, the surprise I was promised was not expected! At all.

Something I’d NEVER done... Horse riding!

[“Hippotherapy”?! YES!]

Karen has done more than a bit of said activity in her earlier life, me though, none. Ever.

So, to have an arranged session with a trusted instructor type who is mindful of helping those with challenges – MS in my case (Karen too but she has experience) – I was excitedly nervous / nervously excited!

The day arrived.

It was initially quite funny getting the correct and fitting helmet and back protector on; we got it after a while. Then to the arena!


We were introduced to our respective horses – Jack for me as he is better with ‘newbies’; Whisky for Karen as she isn’t quite so tame, but! – and we received good relevant chat before anything else.

To mount. Hmmm. I was presented with a stepping block ladder to assist me with the ‘manoeuvre’ and helped get my foot into the stirrup and pushed up a bit.

Success! On a horse! A real horse*! (my other/right foot was helped into that stirrup too) “Now what” I thought.

At this time, Karen was observed as she popped onto Whisky too. The basics. Show off!

Skipping details (I can do that), I was slowly walked around the arena as Karen did similar and more!

To the point. Well, it was a/my first and I enjoyed it! Thank you muchly, Karen.

My experience

A ‘walk’ around the arena was well welcomed. However! NO negatives in that ‘however’, more realisations.

After learning of certain moves to do to Jack, I realised that may be why a lot of people get injured when on a horse and NOT knowing what’s involved in the control elements. I was happy to plod along slowly!

I was simply sitting straight listening to Fred, admiring his knowledge and that what it takes to get ‘good’ on a horse requires a great deal more than the number of rides. Respect to the jockey lot.

Like I said, I was just mainly amazed at the positive results involved in the activity, from my and an MS perspective.

“One study out of Germany concluded that a horseback riding therapy known as hippotherapy along with standard care significantly improved balance, fatigue, motor function, and spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).” (link)

Muscles! Yip, those too obviously. Many muscles for that matter, not just the bum (glute). And it is relaxing too. Mind, body and soul (well).

After a few slow laps, we were done (I was anyway(tiring)), and then to dismount. Great.

That was a challenge. Could I hell get my right leg back over Jack. MS body and mind, I guess, but with help I managed to get onto the steps and back to Terra Firma.

What a surprise! A new hobby? Well steady-on, whoa there, to the watering hole maybe!

Honestly, the positives outweigh the negatives in my humble inexperienced opinion.

Was I surprised? Without doubt. I knew the core would be used a lot and it was. The challenge of staying-put on a big animal (Jack isn’t a big horse, but a damn sight bigger than a pony!) uses cognitive functioning working with respective muscle control – MS favourites! – and the hips with their own connected joints and behaviours. A good workout for anyone.

For a clearer description on what I’m on about, have a gander from Kiowa Country Press:

“Physical benefits of horseback riding

Strengthened muscles

Horseback riding is an isometric exercise that targets specific muscle groups and helps maintain strength. While riding, one's core muscles, such as obliques and abdominals, engage to balance on the horse's back. In addition to the core, muscles in the back, chest, inner thighs, and pelvis are also strengthened so that the rider can maintain proper posture.

Improved coordination

Riding a horse involves performing various movements simultaneously to properly balance on and guide the horse. One's coordination--or ability to efficiently utilize different parts of the body at once--is improved as a result while horseback riding.

Improved posture

Strong abdominal and lower back muscles are essential for maintaining good standing and sitting positioning. Horseback riding provides a great way to improve one's posture due to the core muscles it targets. In addition to strengthening core muscles, horseback riding further helps improve posture due to the specific poses required to keep balance. By practicing proper riding positioning, your posture out of the saddle will likely improve, as well.

Mental benefits of horseback riding

Relieved stress

Horseback riding is an inherently relaxing activity due to the natural rhythm of the horse's trot. The gentle bouncing motion can have a massaging effect that improves circulation and relaxation in the rider. This calming effect is further enhanced as the rider spends time outside and gets physical exercise; both of which have stress-relieving capabilities.

Improved mood

Riding a horse has been found to have a positive impact on one's mood. This effect is largely due to the release of the mood-enhancing hormone, serotonin, which contributes to feelings of happiness. The body releases this chemical as one spends time with animals, such as horses, which improves one's disposition.”

That is that! Of course, they, above, are choice highlighted positives with no negatives of which I cannot list any. I happily allow the owners to take care of those!

As Karen did more riding than I, she had sore glutes for a few days! I did not, but one’s groin! That was somewhat stiff - no. Not that.

*Real horse? Years ago, at an MS event I came across Bob the mechanical horse. Honest!


Many thanks to Lucky Meadows, it's staff and horses too!

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