Grooming and groundwork can be of tremendous benefit to anyone, with or without special needs. Individuals generally love or fear horses, and as sensitive beings, horses are perfect mirrors to reflect human feelings. Working directly with a horse can help process any negative emotions on a smaller scale and will impact daily life in a positive way. Those students who are unsure or nervous may prefer working with a smaller horse in the beginning to help overcome fear.
Grooming improves the horse’s physical appearance and helps keep them healthy while teaching students the importance of taking care of themselves. Spatial awareness improves as one needs to take body position in relation to others into consideration while learning how to maneuver each brush, how much pressure to exert while interacting with the horse, and how to safely lift a saddle or other equipment.
Groundwork consists of leading a horse while staying on the ground. This helps teach horses, and students, proper manners and respect for one another’s space. Simply walking next to a horse can increase control and stability of the body.
Ever since Mark broke his arm a couple years ago, he has pampered it. It's been a challenge to get him to do his therapeutic exercises. Mark’s love of horses has helped us in ways we didn't expect. When he grooms he has to use both arms. The brushing motion is the gentle exercise he needs to strengthen his arm. Since he started grooming last year we have seen him use his arm more for his daily activities. Grooming has strengthened his arm - giving him an overall better quality of life.
Mark has a history of losing focus doing his daily tasks. When he is grooming he is close to the horse and he is 100% engaged with the task. This helps him to learn how to maintain focus.
We also work on memory exercises. After we show him the different brushes and talk about their uses we then repeat this again every time he uses the brushes. Then we have him try to tell us which brush is for which task. This memory exercise helps him outside of HART too. His caregiver can ask him specific questions about events that happened during the day and he is able to reply better than he did before we started working with the horses.
Emotionally and physically the whole experience with HART has benefited him in more ways than I could ever write down.
I'd be happy to have you join us for a lesson so you can see how it works for him. He'd like to tell you all the things he's learned how to do.
Many people associate therapeutic riding as just the riding component of the lesson.
While research has shown improvement in posture and control of the individual due to the pelvic movements of the horse, grooming and groundwork is quickly overlooked.
Grooming and groundwork activities allow for continued work of not only mental interaction, but physical gains. By allowing the individual to participate in these activities we are further challenging the core musculature, balance sensory systems, and confidence.
Grooming and groundwork allow the student to participate in these activities on his/her own feet which in turn allows for carry over of the learned pelvic movements that the horse provides during riding. Carryover then allows that student to adapt those movements, whether it be dynamic standing balance with reaching and change of directions as in grooming, or learning to navigate uneven terrain and soft surfaces during groundwork. These are all aspects of daily living that are significantly challenging to a person with disabilities.
Promotion of these further advanced skills is pertinent in progressing the student’s balance, ambulation skills, and confidence for peer to peer interaction, community and household ambulation.
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